SDLqAnything that would come to my desk that would have anything to do with eroding this plan [the Youngstown Plan], I would veto.”
– Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich
Indeed, Kasich told Vindicator editors he would reject with “vehemence” any attempt to amend or kill House Bill 70, which gave birth to the Youngstown Plan.
While supporters of the restructured Youngstown City School District can find some comfort in the governor’s pledge, they should also be aware that all bets could be off in the new year. That’s because Kasich will be leaving office in December. He is term-limited after serving two four-year terms.
There’s no guarantee his successor, be it Republican Mike DeWine or Democrat Richard Cordray, would be as committed to preserving what we strongly believe is the best chance Youngstown’s children have at academic success.
We, therefore, urge all caring Mahoning Valley residents, who watched for years as incompetent and unqualified school board members and administrators victimized the city’s children, to stand up and be counted.
It’s not enough for business and community leaders to say they support what has taken place in the Youngstown school district since 2015, when HB 70 went into effect.
The leaders must use their financial power and political influence to persuade the area’s state legislative delegation not to kowtow to the Ohio Education Association and other special interests that want to return Youngstown to the bad old days of academic disaster.
Under HB 70, the board of education has been relegated to an advisory role, which relates to its level of competence.
There already are signs that the district is moving in the right direction academically and socially – as evidenced by higher attendance rates and a decrease in disciplinary incidents.
These encouraging outcomes are the reason Gov. Kasich contacted The Vindicator to express his unwavering support for the new direction in Youngstown.
Today’s front-page story based on the governor’s conversation with this newspaper’s editors provides important details about what is taking place in the urban, economically challenged district.
It’s about the kids
We urge the three Democratic legislators from Mahoning County, state Sen. Joseph Schiavoni of Boardman and state Reps. Michele Lepore- Hagan of Youngstown and John Boccieri of Poland to set aside their political biases and do what’s in the best interest of the children.
Schiavoni, Lepore-Hagan and Boccieri should become advocates for the Youngstown Plan because there’s no turning back the clock.
So long as Republicans control the General Assembly and there’s a Republican in the governor’s office, House Bill 70 will remain on the books.
But here’s a reality check: The state has the option of turning failing public schools into charters, which means that local governance would end.
The Youngstown School District was placed in state-declared academic emergency in 2010 and now is under academic watch.
The declaration followed years of failure in the state proficiency tests and high absenteeism and dropout rates. The number of Youngstown students going on to college is atrociously low.
Of the 10,000 school-age children in the city, only 5,000 are enrolled in Youngstown public schools.
It is clear to any objective observer that the traditional public education setup governed by an elected school board and run by a superintendent cannot work in Youngstown.
Kasich, who took over as governor in January 2011, immediately sought to save the city’s children from continued academic and social dislocation. He reached out to a group of Mahoning Valley business and community leaders, who ultimately came up with a plan to re-engineer the system.
House Bill 70, which was enacted with Republican votes only and signed into law by Gov. Kasich, applies to all school districts in academic emergency. However, Youngstown and the Lorain City School District are the only ones currently operating under the new law.
HB 70 has two key provisions: establishment of a special academic distress commission that sets policy; creation of the position of chief executive officer with sweeping powers over the day-to-day operation of the district.
In Youngstown, the academic distress commission hired Krish Mohip, a veteran educator from Chicago, to serve as the first CEO of a public school system in Ohio.
House Bill 70 is not a political ploy by Republicans to dismantle public education in Ohio, as critics contend. It is a lifeline for a segment of the population that has suffered far too long – the children of the city of Youngstown.