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Legislation seeks to audit districts under commissions

COLUMBUS — Legislation is being introduced that would require one-time performance audits of school districts with a current academic distress commission, such as Youngstown.

State Reps. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, and Kent Smith, D-Euclid, announced the legislation.

“Taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent, especially when it comes to their children’s education,” Miller said. “We’ve heard a lot about the need for accountability for these school districts. It’s time the state-imposed district leadership be held to the same standard.”

The bill now will be sent to the House Rules and Reference Committee, where it will receive a committee assignment and bill number.

“We are introducing this legislation because the unelected, unaccountable academic distress commissions and appointed CEOs in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland exercise unilateral control over tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. The performance audits mandated by the bill will enable parents, teachers, residents, elected officials and the public at large to evaluate whether those dollars are being used effectively,” Lepore-Hagan said.

“Most importantly, we will be able to determine if our teachers and kids are receiving the resources and support they need to achieve and succeed. The time to impose transparency and scrutiny on this failed system has arrived.”

Youngstown schools have been under commission supervision for a decade and the control of a chief executive officer. This was done because of failing academic performance and the inability of local leadership to resolve the problem, state education officials have said. The local board of education remains in place in a largely advisory capacity, but has initiated litigation to regain its full authority.

Although there has been some progress, Youngstown schools still are struggling in some measurements on the state report card.

The situation is similar in Lorain and East Cleveland.

“Since the state took over their school district, East Cleveland residents no longer have any oversight abilities. Therefore, the state needs to conduct a performance audit to ensure dollars are not being wasted in their unaccountable system,” Smith said.

Local leaders last month reiterated their support of legislative efforts to eliminate academic distress commissions and restore local control in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland.

Lepore-Hagan and state Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, each have said they would like to see the elimination of academic distress commissions done by the same April 1 deadline that the state has set to complete EdChoice legislation.

Although the bulk of the legislation being discussed by the Ohio Senate’s Education Committee is focused on the future of EdChoice voucher program, there is language in the current proposal that also would eliminate academic distress commissions.

news@tribtoday.com

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