Education sees some funding boosts, some missed opportunities in 2022

By: - December 27, 2022 5:00 am

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Next year is sure to be a busy one when it comes to education in Ohio, with potential state agency overhauls and funding changes still on the agenda for the state legislature.

The end of 2022 was capped by an 11th-hour push and ultimately failure for an attempted overhaul of the Ohio Department of Education and the state Board of Education. Senate Bill 178 was never passed in an Ohio House committee, so it was folded into another bill with controversial provisions, House Bill 151.

House Bill 151 included bans for trans youth in participating in sports based on their gender identity, and after SB 178 was included, the bill came in at more than 2,000 pages. But despite delaying the vote until after 2 a.m. on the last day of the legislative session, the bill and its many provisions failed to garner enough votes in the House.

LGBTQ advocates hailed the failure of House Bill 151, which still would have required the use of birth certificates to prove a student’s gender, despite the elimination of a provision that would have required a genital exam.

“I can not begin to express my gratitude to the hundreds of community members and advocates who stood up for the rights of all transgender youth to participate in all parts of life as whole people, including sports, just like everyone else,” said Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio, after the bill failed to pass.

Dr. Rhea Debussy, director of external affairs for Equitas Health and former facilitator for the NCAA’s Division III LGBTQ OneTeam Program, said the thrill of seeing the legislation voted down was tempered by concern that the bill even existed.

“It’s very alarming that a group of legislators thought bullying gender expansive and intersex youth was an urgent need for the final hours of Ohio’s 134th General Assembly,” Debussy said in a statement.

Senate Bill 178

Education officials not only celebrated the failure of HB 151’s anti-trans legislation, but the downfall of the rapid-fire education overhaul they overwhelmingly said needed more time and more vetting.

“OEA believes it is worth taking a hard look at how Ohio’s schools are governed and supported at the state level,” said OEA President Scott DiMauro in a statement. “However, collaboration is key.”

Senate President Matt Huffman said he was “disappointed that our school reform bill and our attempt to do something about girls’ sports … I’m disappointed that those things failed.”

But Huffman maintained the stance he took after the Senate passed HB 151 on to the House for a vote earlier this month, that if the education overhaul part of the bill didn’t pass during the 134th GA, it would move on to the 135th.

“I’m glad we took the vote because we kind of have on the record who’s where, and there probably is a lot more due diligence that needs to be done on that issue,” Huffman said.

Some ups, more downs

While some funding changes were implemented — such as $56 million in state funding for Disadvantaged Pupil Impact Aid, increases in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds and federal monies for school security and safety — public schools are still looking for full funding of the Fair School Funding Plan (formerly called the Cupp-Patterson plan, after Speaker Bob Cupp and former state Rep. John Patterson, the legislators who created it). The plan was previously funded for the two years of the current General Assembly, but needs another four-year commitment of funds to be fully phased in.

That plan, according to the OEA, “represents the first constitutional school funding system in the state in decades.”

The effort for better public school funding is flanked by a lawsuit moving forward in Franklin County Common Pleas Court that seeks to nullify the EdChoice private school voucher system in the state. A coalition of school districts and individuals joined together to file the lawsuit, and Franklin County Judge Jaiza Page recently ruled against the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, who argued the lawsuit should not be allowed to continue.

“This means we will put vouchers on trial in a court of law,” the coalition behind the lawsuit, Vouchers Hurt Ohio, wrote in an email newsletter, though the timeline for the court case could go on for some time.

Private school vouchers are on the minds of congressional Ohioans as well, with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown pushing for more investment in federal Head Start programs and more funding for public schools.

“We have a state government, one of whose major aims seems to be to privatize public schools,” Brown said in a press call. “They have moved more and more money out of public education into religious schools and other private schools … and really undermined what state government should be doing and that is funding public education for the great majority of students in our state.”

Teachers unions and public officials alike wanted to see efforts to stem the state’s teacher shortage, a rise in the teacher wages that have stagnated over the last 25 years and changes to the third-grade reading guarantee, both of which saw action in the legislature, but did not come to fruition.

As the state’s Board of Education awaits the fate of the department and the board itself, they still have a decision to make: the search for a superintendent of public instruction.

The board spent months on issues such as a resolution condemning racism in education, then a resolution repealing that racism measure, and finally a resolution urging the federal government not to include gender identity in anti-discrimination language that would impact education policy.

But in their December meeting, they decided to punt on the issue of hiring a search firm to select candidates to fill the open position that heads the department.

The board voted to wait until SB 178 was passed or rejected by the legislature, for fear that candidates for the position might change their minds once they found out how the roles of superintendent would change under the new bill.



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.