State Senator C.J. Prentiss (D-Cleveland) represented the 21st Senate District of Ohio. She was first elected to the Senate in 1998. Prentiss is well known for her diligent work ethic, well-versed oration, and efforts to represent those voices that are seldom heard in government. In December 2004, she was elected the Senate Minority Leader, the Number 1 position in the Senate Democratic Caucus. Prentiss previously served eight years as the state representative from the 8th House District (1991-1998). She is a past elected member of the State Board of Education, where she served a six-year term from 1985-1990.
Prentiss served as a member of the following committees: Reference, Joint Legislative Ethics, Legislative Service Commission; and Rules. She is also president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) Foundation, which sponsors educational events and develops policy on behalf of the eighteen African-American members of the Ohio General Assembly. She also chaired the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), serves on NBCSL's Executive Committee and is the Financial Secretary of NBCSL. Her special appointments have included the Governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Financing Student Success, the OhioReads Council, the Governor's Commission on Teaching Success, the Ohio Children's Trust Fund and the Predicate Study Steering Committee.
Known in Columbus as "the highest ranking African-American education lawmaker in the state of Ohio," Prentiss focused on urban education and providing the necessary resources to decrease the black-white academic achievement gap. Under her leadership, NBCSL published Closing the Achievement Gap: Improving Educational Outcomes for African American Children (2001). This document provides a state legislative action plan to decrease the achievement gap while improving the education of all students. During the development of the state's response to the DeRolph v. State school funding lawsuit, she obtained funding for all-day, everyday kindergarten and 1:15 teacher-pupil ratio/reduced class sizes. Prentiss challenged her colleagues to have the political will to act now. She believes that without immediate intervention, the future of this generation of young people is one of low self-esteem, prisons, welfare and a widening gap between the have and have nots.
She finished four years as President of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus during which OLBC established a Minority Business Enterprise Roundtable and a Corporate Roundtable that address and develop policy issues for the caucus. OLBC filed an amicus brief in Ohio's school funding lawsuit that argued "(the) school funding plan passed by the State of Ohio will have a disparate, negative impact on minority students and thus does not provide a thorough and efficient system of common schools."
Prentiss has received the Legislator of the Year Award by NBCSL at their Annual Convention 2001 for, among many accomplishments, her work in leading the publication of Closing the Achievement Gap, NBCSL Roundtable Award, Cleveland State Civic Achievement Award, African American Women's Agenda Woman of the Year Award, Ohio Hunger Task Force Legislator of the Year Award, Greater Cleveland AIDS Taskforce "A Voice Against the Silence" Award, Glenville Hall of Fame Award, and McDonalds Black History Makers of Tomorrow Program Award.
As the state senator from the 21st District, Prentiss represented Bratenahl, Brooklyn Heights, Cleveland (part), Cleveland Heights, Cuyahoga Heights, East Cleveland, Newburgh Heights and University Heights. She received her B.A. in Education and M.Ed. from Cleveland State University. She holds a post-graduate certificate in Administration from Kent State University and is a graduate of the Weatherhead School of Management of the Case Western Reserve Advanced Management Program.