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COVID-19 relief bill keeps Youngstown City Schools under state control

When asked about the passage of the bill, YCSD CEO Justin Jennings said, "My focus is on our scholars."
leporehagan jennings
Ohio's coronavirus relief bill would extend academic distress commissions and the CEO role into the next school year.

COLUMBUS — A coronavirus relief bill sits on the desk of Gov. Mike DeWine, and it includes a measure to keep Youngstown City School District in the hands of the state — for now. 

House Bill 197 was unanimously passed by Ohio lawmakers Wednesday. It extends academic distress commissions and CEOs of failing school districts through the 2020-2021 school year. 

Youngstown City Schools have been under state control since HB 70, known as the Youngstown Plan, which created the CEO role and as well as a new relationship with academic distress commission.

"My focus is on our scholars," YCSD CEO Justin Jennings said, when asked about the development. "I let the politicians do the politics. I'm focused on making sure our scholars are safe and the community is safe."  

The bill also contains the following provisions to provide relief to Ohioans affected by the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Extend mail-in primary voting until April 28
  • Ban water utilities from disconnecting service 
  • Cancel mandatory school testing this year 
  • Push back the Ohio tax deadline to July 15

According to a post on his official Twitter account, DeWine will sign the bill "soon." 

Earlier this week, state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan and more than 20 other elected officials sent a letter to DeWine, urging him restore local control to Youngstown City Schools. 

Among those signing the letter are U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, Ohio Reps. Michael O’Brien and Gil Blair, Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, Youngstown City Council President DeMaine Kitchen and Mahoning County Commissioners David C. Ditzler, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and Anthony Traficanti.

“Like the entire state and nation, the Youngstown Schools are in crisis. We’re working together to deal with the COVID-19 emergency,” Lepore-Hagan said. “In these difficult times, the need to restore local control is more urgent than ever. This letter is a demonstration of our unified community and our spirit of cooperation.”

Despite the provision in H.B 197, Lepore-Hagan intends to fight to estore local control of Youngstown City Schools before the next school year. 

"Clearly, the priorities are to take care of the health of our constituents in Ohio," said Lepore-Hagan. "[Local control of YCSD] is obviously a very important issue to us. ... I am committed and hopeful that when we reconvene, this will be at the top of our agenda."

Currently, two pending bipartisan bills — SB 89 and HB 154 — would abolish HB 70.


Jess Hardin

About the Author: Jess Hardin

Jess Hardin is a reporter for Mahoning Matters. She grew up in Pittsburgh and last worked at The Vindicator. Jess graduated from Georgetown University.
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