Parents, teachers gather to protest HB 70 in Youngstown
A group of parents, teachers, lawmakers and faith leaders gathered in Youngstown Thursday to continue the crusade against House Bill 70 in the city's schools.
"Our teachers need to have a voice again, we've been robbed of our voice. Our board of education, who we worked with and collaborated with, they've been robbed of their voice," Paula Valentini, OEA representative said, "To the Senate Education Committee, are you looking at the data? Are you listening to educators? You put a moratorium on allowing HB 70 to spread across the state to your districts because it's evident that this experiment is a failure. You will not allow HB 70 to destroy your school district because you see how it has failed inside ours."
Under HB 70 the school district is being run by a state-appointed CEO and after four straight years of "F's" on state report cards, people are saying they've had enough.
"There has been no significant improvement in the academic performance of the students in the district and the community has no power, no authority to change the course of its own school system," Reverend Kenneth Simon of the New Bethel Baptist Church said, "The taxpaying citizens, concerned parents have no say or opportunity for meaningful input in the functioning of the school district their children attend, nor has there been any accountability to them of the operation of the district, that is simply, taxation without representation."
Those opposed to the bill say that the state has failed the children of Youngstown and that it's time to put the district back in the hands of locals.
"Pass HB 154 out of the Senate, as we passed it out of the House, we want to restore local control. We want to protect collective bargaining, we want to protect our public education. We want to make sure we haven't abandoned our children and marooned Youngstown, East Cleveland and Loraine," State Representative Michelle Lepore Hagan said.
Youngstown Schools CEO Justin Jennings didn't comment on the press conference but said that the focus should remain on ensuring the students learn.
"The problem we have in our school system has nothing to do with HB70 it existed long before the legislation. If the goal is to throw out inaccurate statistics to get people to in an uproar that's fine. Our focus is to move forward no matter what legislation is decided," Jennings said.
My offer still stands to work with anyone who is willing to work with me, to work me out of this position because we have worked together to move our scholars achievement. Not self serving but for future of our scholars and this great city in which I am charged to serve.
Other school officials said that although the district is still graded as an "F" that progress has been made.
"Obviously, no one is happy that the district got an "F", but there has been progress. The graduation rate is one example. Opponents argue that local control should be restored and that the state has been in control. But it was the failure of the district under local control that led the state to intervene. It seems a foregone conclusion that the law will change to some degree. But just returning control to the local board would be going backward. If the board members believe they know how to turn things around, why haven’t they shared that knowledge," Denise Dick school spokesperson said.