(The Center Square) – The Republican-dominated Ohio Senate approved a plan Wednesday that would remove most power for the state Board of Education and place it with the governor.
The move comes a little more than a month after Democrats won control of the state board of education in the November general election.
“I want to stress that this bill is constituent driven,” Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Toledo, said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “SB178 refocuses our education system to what matters most, our children. I believe we can do better for our children if we reenergize and refocus our education system. Real change and bold action are the solution.”
Reinke said committee testimony showed the state education system lacks leadership.
The bill would create a cabinet-level position, appointed by the governor, to lead the department of education, rather than have the state Board of Education select a superintendent.
“We are not going to be able to solve a lot of the problems the state of Ohio has under the current structure,” said Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima.
The bill would have the board continue to deal with boundary and transfer issues, along with teacher licensing. It would be allowed to advise on policy issues but have no authority to create education policy in the state.
The bill, which passed 22-7, also adds workforce development to the school board’s mission, and Reineke said career paths should be an important part of the education system in the state. The bill would create two division focused on workforce development, with another on K-12.
The Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Association of Teachers have said they have not had time to review the potential changes, which were introduced last month, according to Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron.
Democrats argued on the floor the quick push for legislation during a lame duck session failed to give lawmakers an opportunity to have deeper, more serious discussions.
“It will affect change for decades to come. With that thought in mind, I would think something of this magnitude is something we should not rush through in a lame duck session,” said Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati. “I find it ironic, and I don’t believe it was coincidental of the 19 members on the state Board of Education, the Democrats picked up three seats. The trend is going in a different direction. I find it ironic.”
Proponents said similar ideas have been around the statehouse for decades.
The bill now moves to the House.
As previously reported by The Center Square, SB178 calls for the establishment of a new cabinet position with the governor to manage the responsibilities, in place of a superintendent of public instruction overseeing the Ohio public school educational system.
Dan Tierney, spokesman for Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, said when the bill was introduced last month that the governor was not part of the proposed legislation.
“Ohio is probably the strongest home-rule state in the United States. We do a lot of it at local levels and even on state boards,” Tierney said. “Many officials are of the opinion that local school boards respond to local community needs and that is where a lot of school policies are made. This bill would not impact that.”
In November, three Democrats won seats on the state school board, giving Democrats the majority.