House Bill 70, legislation originally introduced to make Community Learning Centers a turnaround school model option for Ohio, was hijacked by the state legislature to takeover Youngstown schools.
In its original form, HB 70 would establish the Community Learning Center model in which parents, teachers, students, administration, community members and anyone else interested would have a voice in determining the needs of their neighborhood school and work together to bring community resources into the schools to meet the needs of children, their families and the community.
OFT was very instrumental in getting this bill written and supported by both Democrats and Republicans. We were responsible for getting multiple senators, representatives, directors from the governor's office, community stakeholders from across the state and others to visit Cincinnati to observe firsthand the success of the model. The Community Learning Center model is grounded in engaging community members in determining what kinds of resources are needed in each school in order for the children of that neighborhood to be successful. The model brings community resources to the schools so that the needs of the whole child can be addressed. This is a model that OFT firmly believes addresses poverty issues in our schools in a meaningful way by engaging parents, teachers and other community members. In doing so, it not only has the potential to help the student and the school system thrive but also the community as a whole.
Legislation to promote the Community Learning Center model statewide was a victory for students, their families and communities.
The bill passed through the House with almost unanimous support. Prior to being voted out of the Senate Education Committee though, a 66-page amendment was added that changed Academic Distress Commissions within the state. Though this change initially impacts only Youngstown and Lorain, it has the potential to eventually impact other districts as well, particularly our urban locals that deal with high rates of concentrated poverty. Many of the pieces added reflect a corporate agenda approach that is completely opposite of the original intent of this bill. While the original bill, and the Community Learning Center model that remains in it, address poverty, the amendment does more to shut down the public school system and put students in charter schools, private schools or surrounding schools in a way that does nothing to actually help the impacted students.
The process by which this amendment was introduced and passed was egregious. This amendment was kept secret from almost everyone until the very last minute, then was attached to a bill that they knew was going to pass quickly. The amendment was introduced and passed in the Senate Education Committee on a Wednesday morning. It was voted out of the Senate early Wednesday afternoon. The House voted for concurrence late Wednesday afternoon. It went through the entire process in one day. Since OFT was already slated to testify on the original bill, we were permitted to testify, but were not permitted to speak on the amendments because they had not yet been introduced. The amendments were introduced immediately after our testimony, but we were not permitted to return to the podium to address their flaws. Then people who were supportive of the amendment were called to testify in favor of it which confirmed that some people - those who would like it - knew about this change long before it was introduced. This is a violation of what a democratic process should look like. Everyone should have an opportunity to see proposed legislation, ask questions about it, participate in discussion about it and testify for or against it. This was a blatant attempt to keep unions and others in the dark so that we could not mobilize against this egregious bill as amended.
Below is additional information to help understand the legislation:
One-page brief summary with basic information about the bill
More extensive summary with reference to line numbers within the bill
LSC summary which gives even more complete details