Bill Phillis posted this powerful letter on his blog for the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding.

The Honorable Michael DeWine

77 S. High Street, Suite 30

Columbus, OH 43215

Dear Governor DeWine,

The headline of an article in the October 27, 2019 ​Youngstown Vindicator ​reads: “DeWine Says HB70 Must Be Replaced.”

We are happy to learn that you want to maintain local control of public schools, and that you are not a supporter of House Bill 70, the state legislation allowing state takeover of public schools with failing grades, as Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland have experienced. However, we are concerned with your statement that a “remedial plan” or “outside consultants” may be needed, as stated in the ​Vindicator ​article.

We are the Northeastern Ohio AFT retiree chapter, NEO-AFT #279-R. We have over 1,000 members in our group, and are members of the state and national affiliates, the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers. Our membership includes retired teachers, administrators, speech/language therapists, school psychologists, guidance counselors, librarians, and paraprofessionals from all over northeastern Ohio.

We–educators and related-service personnel–are the experts you can rely on. ​We represent a rich range of educational training, knowledge, and experience.

We know from research and experience that:

Parental income is the single most influential factor in a child’s academic performance.

Let us repeat:

The single most important influence on a child’s academic performance is their parents’ income.

Therefore, it is understandable that most children in high-income suburbs get higher test scores and better grades, and more children in poor districts get lower scores and lower grades. This is the case for the Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland School Districts, where ​100% of the children enrolled are living at or below the State Poverty Level. ​However, the children’s low performance on standardized tests is not due to bad teachers, bad schools, or bad local Boards of Education.

Many children living in poor neighborhoods start school handicapped on their very first day. Poverty is a major contributing cause of frequent absenteeism, psychological trauma, health problems including mental health issues, poor nutrition, limited social skills, and much more.

What is needed to combat the effects of poverty are wrap-around school programs including tutoring, and social services including medical, dental, visual, psychological/counseling services, 
during and after the school day.

The Cincinnati Public Schools are an excellent model. They have successfully created Community Learning Centers (CLC) in all their schools. Since launching their program in 2002, their CLC model has drawn national attention for successfully engaging community partnerships in school buildings.

Another model is the Say Yes to Education program. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District is in its first year of Say Yes to Education Cleveland. This dual-approach program provides the incentive of last-dollar post-high school scholarships for students, along with the essential wrap- around social supports for students and their families from preschool through graduation.

Providing these services to struggling districts like Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland would require additional school funding from the state and/or other entities, but would pay off in significant academic and social gains for these communities.

Educators can and should be involved in developing any remedial plans. They are the experts, and they know what their students and families need.

We recommend:

• End HB 70 completely;
• Add additional health and social services, such as medical, dental, vision, counseling;
• Add additional academic support services;
• Add wrap-around programs, such as robust after-school programs including tutoring and physical activities.

Our public schools are one of the last democratic institutions in America, and we do not want to lose this valuable part of our nation. Most American Nobel prize winners are graduates of their local public schools. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville, the French diplomat, political scientist, historian, and author, wrote in his famous book, ​Democracy in America, ​about the wisdom of local community decision-making as a unique characteristic of American towns.

We hope you use this information as a guide to ending HB70.


Lois Romanoff, M.Eds., Ed.S. Retired School Psychologist, Cleveland Metropolitan School District and NEO-AFT 279-R Member
Teresa Green, President, and the Executive Council of the NEO-AFT 279-R