Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding Hpuse Bill 70
By Amanda Tonoli
Oral arguments will be heard Oct. 23 by the Ohio Supreme Court in the fight against House Bill 70, which allowed state oversight of Youngstown City Schools.
State. Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, said she’s been saying from the very beginning that the Youngstown Board of Education needs to be heard on this legislation, which placed an academic distress commission and a CEO in charge of finances and planning due to failed academic performance.
“It was done in secret by outsiders,” she said. “It was a brazen disregard of the law. I’m hopeful we can get back to the real issues at hand – recognizing we need to educate our kids. That’s the greatest need.”
Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, who was one of several local leaders who helped to develop HB 70, said he thinks it’s good for the state Supreme Court to talk about something as important as education.
“Our goal is to make sure that every person in our state has the opportunity for the education they’ll need to go on and have a meaningful life,” he said. “I think it’s a great discussion for the Supreme Court to have.”
State Rep. Don Manning of New Middletown, R-59th, said simply, “We’re going to let it work through the process.”
Currently, the Ohio Senate is working on its own version to repeal and replace HB 70, he said.
“We will see what these versions look like,” Manning said.
Manning was referring to proposed House Bill 154.
HB 154, should it pass both houses and be signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, would restore local control of school districts taken over under the authority of House Bill 70.
In May, HB 154 passed without amendment in the Ohio House of Representatives by a vote of 82-12.
“I don’t think that’s (the Supreme Court ruling) going to matter once this legislation (HB 154) is passed as long as legislation is constitutional,” he said.
Incoming CEO Justin Jennings said: “The school district is not a party to the lawsuit. We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing and that’s educating scholars and working with the community and board to move Youngstown City Schools forward.”
HB 70, also referred to as the Youngstown Plan, was signed into law by then-Gov. John Kasich in July 2015. It enabled a state-appointed academic distress commission to hire CEO Krish Mohip to lead the district. The bill gives the CEO complete operational, managerial and instructional control.
Mohip refers to the elected board of education as an advisory panel.
Mohip will leave the district July 31, and Jennings will take his place Aug. 1.
The Youngstown school board first filed an injunction to stop HB 70 from taking effect, saying it would do irreparable damage, according to court records.
Other parties in the original injunction included the Ohio Education Association, Youngstown Education Association, city schools teacher Jane Haggerty, AFSCME Ohio Council 8 and the AFL-CIO.
Franklin County Common Pleas Court denied the appeal Oct. 11, 2017, citing reasons including a failure to show there would be irreparable damage, according to the decision.
The Ohio Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal Oct. 24, 2018.