Four years later, the question still rings: What was John Kasich thinking? In June 2015, the then governor took all of one day to win passage of a process for the state to take over the operation of struggling school districts. There was practically no discussion. Kasich had in mind rescuing the troubled Youngstown schools. How did that work out?

The takeover has been problematic, to say the least. Concern has turned into a consensus at the Statehouse: There must be a better way. That sense of agreement was front and center last week during hearings on a handful of related bills. Lawmakers are right to seek improvements. The lesson also merits application: Take care in either making repairs or putting together a new approach.

What went wrong with the Kasich initiative? The process calls for the appointment of a chief executive by a five-member academic distress commission, with three of the panel’s members tapped by the state school superintendent. The chief executive has vast authority, even the power to replace public schools with privately run charter schools. It comes as no surprise that local officials and others in affected communities have resisted, something highlighted by Paolo DeMaria, the state superintendent, in his recent review.

A lack of transparency and accountability heighten the tensions and work against the collective effort required to achieve better academic outcomes.

In many respects, the process has broken down, and not just in Youngstown. The East Cleveland and Lorain schools have had similar experiences. With Dayton facing a takeover next school year, and several districts, including Canton, Mansfield and Toledo, on track for the following year, legislative action now is imperative.

With that in mind, Gov. Mike DeWine proposed a set of fixes in his two-year state budget plan. He would curb the authority of the chief executive, add elements of local input and get the state to intervene earlier to put the district on a positive track. The concern is that while more deliberative than the Kasich rush, the biennial budget isn’t the most productive vehicle for this discussion. Better to go with separate legislation, providing a sole focus without the pressure of budgetary priorities and deadlines.

If anything, the Statehouse discussions last week reinforced such thinking, lawmakers, experts and various stakeholders expressing a range of views that require sorting and vetting. In that way, state Rep. Steve Hambley, a Brunswick Republican, has a good idea in placing a moratorium on future takeovers until the way forward gets settled.

Many agree that the state needs an intervention mechanism when districts are failing students, families and communities. Yet in getting the process right, lawmakers must weigh thoughtfully what actually is failure. The current regimen applies when a district receives three consecutive “F” grades on the state report card. Such grades are more complicated than a single letter suggests, with many students gaining a strong education even in failing districts.

Which gets to a hard truth, and a subject at the core of the current debate over the school-funding formula. The challenge in failing districts isn’t so much about teachers and administrators. It goes to the many students who arrive unprepared to succeed. Thus, the imposition of a chief executive and academic distress commission misses the mark. It seems folly to think they somehow can whip a district into shape.

This is more about at-risk students and the intervention required to aid their education, in the form of additional resources to support learning, from mental health care to mentors and enriching after-school programs. Build a formula that fully grasps the toxic effects of poverty, and the state will have less need to mount takeovers.