Proposed education overhauls see Ohio House action

By: - March 23, 2023 4:55 am

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Both bills seeking to overhaul the Ohio Department of Education were heard in Ohio House committees this week, with opponents torching a House version and sponsors bringing forth the Senate’s measure.

Following its party-line passage in the Senate, Sen. Bill Reineke’s Senate Bill 1 entered the Ohio House Committee on Economic & Workforce Development for its first hearing, a sponsor’s look at the bill.

“Our children deserve strong educations that prepare them for their futures, and we must hold government accountable,” Reineke told the committee. “Our citizens, our taxpayers, deserve a return on their investment.”

The bill looks to restructure the department by placing leadership under the umbrella of the governor’s cabinet, with two deputy directors also hired, one for workforce and one for primary and secondary education.

The new Department of Education and Workforce would also take on more responsibilities currently held by the Ohio State Board of Education. What would be left for the state board would be licensure and territory disputes, along with the hiring of a new superintendent of public instruction.

That superintendent could serve an “advisory” role to the new director and deputy directors of the department, if the SB 1 is passed as currently written.

Facing criticism in the Senate from homeschooling organizations, Reineke said the SB 1 “aims to guarantee homeschooling families the ability to home-educate their child by exempting a child from compulsory school attendance when that child is receiving instruction in core subject areas from their parents.”

Opponents of the bill have focused somewhat on the board of education changes, saying the elected members of that board would essentially be stripped of the roles for which they were elected. Several members of the board took the time to testify in Senate committee against the bill before it was passed.

As SB 1 saw its first hearing, similar legislation, House Bill 12, saw its fourth hearing, with opponents once again speaking out against the provisions of the bill.

Those speaking against the bill were some of the same seen in the Senate pushing back against the need for the bill, including the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio School Boards Association, and board of education members Tom Jackson, Teresa Fedor, Antoinette Miranda, and Meryl Johnson.

“As serious as the issues are in the classroom, especially in the area of literacy, your decision to toss K-12 education into the hands of the governor, and kick dirt in the face of local control is just not fair,” Johnson said.

Members of Honesty for Ohio Education, a coalition of groups opposed to any education policy that puts private school education over public, said HB 12 (matching comments they made previously about SB 1) does just that.

“In shifting control of public education to the governor and platforming a workforce pipeline over student needs, this plan does nothing to address issues directly impacting student outcomes,” said HPE founding director, Cynthia Peeples.

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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.

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