WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HOUSE BILL 70
House Bill 70 is devastating impacted local schools and the communities they serve.
HB 70 was passed in 2015 after one public hearing, a woefully inadequate period of time for proper consideration of a complicated major education policy change, and an extremely close vote in the Ohio Senate – 18 to 14.
House Bill 70 effectively removes decision-making power from locally elected school boards and installs an independent commission to operate the district.
The commission then appoints a CEO who is authorized, without consulting the Board, to make all operating decisions, such as voiding contracts, terminating employees and even converting district schools to charter schools.
Two Ohio school districts are already subject to the law and potentially more could be facing the takeover in the near future unless action is taken now.
The law is devastating entire communities, with the threat of a state takeover causing good teachers and administrators to look elsewhere for other jobs and flee distressed districts, leading to a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure, leaving the children of those communities behind.
The Ohio School District Report Card, the basis for invoking HB 70, is unfair and overly reliant on consistently flawed standardized tests and district evaluation system.
The state has changed the testing approach multiple times in the last several years, even though studies show that such changes disproportionately affect urban districts and its students. The current system doesn’t work.
HOW IT WORKS:
Prior to the passage of HB 70, State law required the Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish an Academic Distress Commission [ADC] for any school district declared to be in academic emergency. An ADC is a joint school district and state panel appointed to try to fix schools in academic emergency that failed to make adequate yearly progress for four or more consecutive years.
Now, under HB 70, districts with an overall grade of “F” for two consecutive years are subject to an Academic Distress Commission and CEO with broad powers. In the last several years, all districts other than Youngstown and Lorain were held-harmless by a “grace period” that largely delayed implementation of this portion of the law. That time is ending, it is expected that many districts will face HB 70, Academic Distress Commissions and CEOs running their districts in the coming years. Further, the criteria for HB 70 will change as the Report Card changes leading to uncertainty.
Failure to meet the goals established by an ADC moves a district directly under House Bill 70 regulations. This process initiates some major changes, such as an Academic Distress Commission, hiring a CEO to run the district, promoting more charter schools, possible mayoral control and possibly overriding parts of union contracts.
IMMEDIATE CHANGES TO A DISTRICT UNDER HOUSE BILL 70:
An Academic Distress Commission is created. State Superintendent of Public Instruction approves three members, the district’s Board President appoints one member, who must be a teacher. The city’s Mayor appoints the fifth. Therefore the State controls the appointment process.
A Commission Chair is appointed. Within 30 days of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction creates an Academic Distress Commission [ADC], and appoints a Chair.
A CEO is appointed. Within 60 days of the Chair’s appointment, the Academic Distress Commission appoints a CEO. The CEO forms community groups to develop expectations and he creates his plan for the district.
HB 70 NEW GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE: CEO IN CHARGE
The CEO has the full authority of the Superintendent and Board of Education, with complete operational, managerial, and instructional control of the district. By law, the only authority the Board of Education retains is to put a levy on the ballot to support the schools.
The CEO’s authorities include:
(a) Replacing school administrators and central office staff;
(b) Assigning employees to schools and approving transfers;
(c) Hiring new employees;
(d) Defining employee responsibilities and job descriptions;
(e) Establishing employee compensation;
(f) Allocating teacher class loads;
(g) Conducting employee evaluations;
(h) Making reductions in staff under ORC section 3319.17, 3319.171, or 3319.172;
(i) Setting the school calendar;
(j) Creating a budget for the district;
(k) Contracting for services for the district;
(l) Modifying policies and procedures established by the district board;
(m) Establishing grade configurations of schools;
(n) Determining the school curriculum;
(o) Selecting instructional materials and assessments;
(p) Setting class sizes;
(q) Providing for staff professional development.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE FIRST YEAR?
By year two, of the new Commission being named, the CEO can close struggling schools, impose a turnaround plan or convert the school to a charter school. By year three, the CEO can change or suspend any rules in place in union contracts, so long as they do not lower the pay and benefits of employees. By year five, school board members will be appointed by the mayor, not elected. The community will have a vote to return to electing its school board once the district is no longer considered “failing.”
HOW IS THIS KIND OF CHANGE FUNDED?
The state can give the district up to $1.5 million as a one-time payment to enact its plan. However, when the CEO spends, it is largely the local district paying the bill.
HOW A DISTRICT ENDS CEO OVERSIGHT:
When a district subject to this oversight receives an overall grade of “C” or higher for 2 consecutive years, the district can begin its transition out.