This week, Ohio lawmakers, at the urging of Governor John Kasich are working on legislation (House Bill 512) that would eliminate most of the oversight responsibility of the State Board of Education, a body made up of appointees as well as members elected to represent regions of the state. The plan, if passed, would leave the state board (and the Superintendent it hires) with few responsibilities other than teacher licensure.
As we think about a political takeover of Ohio’s education system, it’s worth a look at what has happened in the recent past.
In 2015, Ohio lawmakers empowered Kasich to take over local school districts that perform poorly on state report cards by passing HB70, otherwise known as the “Youngstown plan,” which hands over control of public schools to an all-powerful CEO. The CEO was hired by an “Academic Distress Commission” made up of political appointees, most of them named by the Governor. Neither the commission nor the CEO are subject to oversight by the elected school board.
Under HB70, the CEO has vast powers including the ability to hire and fire staff, open or close schools, establish charter schools, negotiate contracts, set salary levels and more. Many opposed the plan at the time, but it was rushed through the GOP-controlled legislature at the urging of the Governor’s office.
Youngstown was first to act under the plan. The commission hired former Chicago educator Krish Mohip as the district’s CEO. Mohip’s tenure has been rocky, as one might expect from an unaccountable leader put in place by politicians in Columbus. Observers are also wary about the Kasich administration’s efforts to use the takeover as a way to open more charter schools in Youngstown.
Meanwhile, in Lorain, the state’s second takeover resulted in the appointment of CEO David Hardy, a veteran of the Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City school systems. Like in Youngstown, Hardy’s appointment has been met with resistance and alarm over potential changes he would enact. Recently, reports surfaced that Hardy hired a former administrator of Teach for America (TFA) as his Chief People Officer. The TFA program puts non-traditional educators into classrooms after as little as five weeks of training, is an obsession of right-wing politicians looking to cut costs, and is seen as a threat to both teacher quality and pay. Hardy is even rumored to have held a Teach For America recruitment session last weekend in Cleveland.
Flash forward to 2018.
Last week it was reported that Mohip is already looking for another job. He says as a result of his house being vandalized, he no longer feels safe moving his family to the area. No really, here’s what he said about Youngstown:
Yesterday, Mohip backpedaled, saying he’s committed to the district.
“I would not be comfortable bringing my family to live with me here in Youngstown” is 100% something that people committed to Youngstown definitely say.
For his part, Hardy says while he is OK running Lorain Schools, he’s not up for living in Lorain.
Cool gesture, but we’re going to take a wild guess that Hardy found himself a place that’s quite a bit more expensive than that.
One (of many) downsides to bringing in a designated “reformers” to cut costs and open the door to charter schools–while it may be attractive to corporate appointees to academic distress commissions–is they aren’t necessarily committed to the community or to the kids.
As evidenced by these two CEOs, who don’t want to live in the districts they run.
And this is what makes the current GOP plan to give John Kasich control of the entire K-12 education system that much more concerning. If these two disconnected CEOs are what John Kasich’s appointees have given us in two communities, what kind of clueless, out-of-touch ideologue would he bring in to oversee education statewide if House Bill 512 passes?
The mind boggles.
Citizen oversight provided by elected boards of election is important. We must tread carefully before eliminating it.