Ohio needs a new process for the state to intervene and help school districts long struggling with their academic performance. The current regimen has proved deeply flawed, and no wonder. It was implemented in a rush at the wish of the previous governor, John Kasich. The absence of proper vetting is plain where the process has been applied, in East Cleveland, Youngstown and Lorain, notably in the lack of local voices and thus local support for decision-making driven by a state-appointed chief executive with near-absolute authority.

Gov. Mike DeWine and legislative leaders get the problem. They have had in mind including an improved mechanism in the new two-year state budget, due by June 30. The governor proposed changes that move in the direction of greater local input and earlier assistance for school districts, or not waiting until a district receives three consecutive overall F grades on the state report card.

The House included in its budget plan more aggressive action to dismantle the current system. The proposal wipes out the Academic Distress Commissions, which empower the chief executive. It leaves districts in control to craft improvement plans for specific buildings that receive F grades.

What has the Senate done? It removed the House provision from the budget plan it approved last week. It did so without adding a proposal of its own. So the House and Senate face a challenge as lawmakers meet to resolve differences between their two budget plans. They would do well to halt the intervention process now in operation and take time to make sure they get right any new process.

The absence of a proposal doesn’t mean the Senate has been idle. State Sen. Peggy Lehner, the chairwoman of the Education Committee, has worked thoughtfully to develop an alternative. Her proposal, unveiled the week before last, delivers markedly more local input in shaping an improvement plan. Yet it also ensures a role for the state in holding districts accountable, from a statewide School Transformation Board overseeing all efforts to School Improvement Commissions, appointed when districts go too long without progress.

Lehner has a component for earlier action. After one F grade, a district would have the option of choosing an analyst to conduct an in-depth assessment of its strengths and weaknesses, laying the path to higher marks. The state would cover the cost.

The Lehner proposal deserves full consideration. It also has many moving parts and thus invites questions, which critics quickly raised. More, in light of recent experience, districts, understandably, are wary of almost any such state role. All of this serves as an argument for proceeding via separate legislation, looking to find consensus. The House provision might be used as a vehicle for ending the current process, or a foundation upon which to build.

Lehner stressed something important in outlining her proposal. She noted “it’s very difficult [for a school district] to move from an F to a D to a C,” adding: “It takes time.” That is worth emphasis, along with the Akron Public Schools, for example, having launched its ambitious college and career academies to improve academic performance.

Which points to another hard truth: Districts won’t make the desired advances without the state investing adequately and effectively in at-risk students. In that way, the problem isn’t about teachers, principals, superintendents and school boards. It involves a failure to devote the necessary resources to preparing children to succeed in school, from early education to high-quality childcare to counseling for mental health.

Thus, if anything merits inclusion in the final state budget, it is the $675 million the House directs to just such an investment in children.