The Westerville City School District (WCSD) Board of Education on Monday unanimously passed a resolution formally opposing what has become known as the “Youngstown School Plan,” calling it a measure that was “secretly concocted” without input from the Youngstown Board of Education, the State Board of Education, the Youngstown Mayor and City Council, and every other elected public official in the city.
Ohio lawmakers recently passed House Bill 70, which grants the state exclusive power to take over operations of the Youngstown City Schools (YCS) by appointing a Chief Executive Officer (CEO). WCSD Board of Education Member Nancy Nestor-Baker noted, however, that the General Assembly passed HB70 within 24 hours, the Democratic Caucus within the General Assembly had only two hours to review it, and no opponent testimony was permitted.
“This was shoved through after being developed secretly,” Nestor-Baker said. “It is an appalling assault on local education…we all need to look at what this actually means to public education in the state of Ohio.”
Nestor-Baker added, “What happens to Youngstown today is set to happen to Lorain tomorrow, and then, depending on how the state chooses to decide what schools are so called failing, could happen to any of us. It is an extreme assault on local control and I urge the General Assembly to pay attention to the districts like Westerville that are pushing resolutions forward about this, I urge Governor Kasich to address the issue, and I urge the Youngstown City School Board of Education to keep fighting.”
While the law currently impacts only YCS, it opens the door for the state to take control and appoint a CEO in any school district deemed to be “failing” for three consecutive years under the new state report card system. Though the state is not yet issuing overall grades for school districts, a state takeover may still occur if a district receives three consecutive years of F grades on its Performance Index measure and a grade of D or F on its value-added component for academic progress.
“What’s been done has been amazing to me just from the standpoint of the boldness of it, the secrecy, the fact that there was a bipartisan against vote in our state legislature, which is rare, yet not enough votes to keep this from being passed through secretly and in the night,” said WCSD Board of Education Member Richard Bird, who also encouraged those in attendance to monitor the impending Supreme Court case against the plan.
“There are a lot of commonalities in that community when it talks about the community coming together to run a Supreme Court case to invalidate this decision by the state,” Bird explained. “I think that that’s a reflection of a strong community – the fact that the entire community is coming together to fight this thing is giving me optimism.”
WCSD Board members noted in the resolution that the process used to create the Youngstown Schools Plan, as well as the plan itself, infringes upon the constituted powers of the Youngstown Board of Education. In addition to never offering a public hearing on the plan, those charged with its development intentionally excluded key persons from the process.
The WCSD resolution concluded by encouraging the General Assembly to repeal the Youngstown Schools Plan in its entirety. Board members also pledged to forward a copy of the resolution to Kasich, Ross, each member of Ohio’s 131st General Assembly, each member of the Ohio State Board of Education, the Youngstown Board of Education, and the Ohio School Boards Association.
“It’s very disconcerting,” Board of Education Vice President Rick Vilardo said of the Youngstown Schools Plan. “Maybe all of us can do some letter writing and some phone calling and be on the same page with this because it will trickle down. The more that power is removed, the more power people will want to remove.”