Ohio Senate takes another step to remove power from state school board

(The Center Square) – After failing late last year, a bill that would remove power from the Ohio Board of Education and the state superintendent is moving forward in the new General…

(The Center Square) – After failing late last year, a bill that would remove power from the Ohio Board of Education and the state superintendent is moving forward in the new General Assembly.

Senate Bill 1, which has passed the Senate 26-7 straight Republican party-line vote, has yet to be introduced in the House. The plan to create a cabinet-level education position appointed by the governor to control K-12 education policies was not part of the House Republican Caucus’ list of 12 priority bills.

It’s been a priority in the Senate since late last year when Democrats won control of the state school board in the November general election.

The bill would rename the Ohio Department of Education to the Department of Education and Workforce. The state school board would still exist to deal with teacher licensing. Its power, and the power of the state superintendent would be transferred to the new department, according to Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima.

“For too long, the Department of Education has operated free from effective oversight and accountability,” Huffman said. “Ohioans would be surprised to learn that ODE doesn’t answer to the governor’s office or members of the General Assembly and has been able to ignore questions and delay implementation of laws passed by the General Assembly. The reforms in SB1 will provide much-needed enhancements to our education system that will improve transparency, accountability and outcomes for our children.”

The plan received support from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, as well as several other business groups and the Ohio Association for Career-Technical Education and the Ohio Association of Career-Technical Superintendents.

“We welcome this timely, paradigm shifting legislation as it aligns with the governor and Legislature’s overarching goal of growing career-tech and otherwise enhancing workforce and economic development across the state,” said Maggie Hess, executive director of OACTS and interim executive director of Ohio ACTE.

The bill is opposed by the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the League of Women Voters and several local school boards.

“This legislation leaves the future of education beholden to partisan control, not the people,” Columbus City Board of Education President Jennifer Adair testified. “Proponents suggest this change will eliminate a level of bureaucracy. Not true. It eliminates the voice of the people of Ohio in defining what is public education. The legislation eliminates having direct access to an elected representative.”

As previously reported by The Center Square, the Senate passed a similar bill in early December.

Dan Tierney, spokesman for Republican Gov. Mike DeWine, said when that bill was introduced in November 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.”

Huffman said similar proposals have been around the statehouse for decades.

“Parents understand that results matter,” Huffman said. “If I can’t get answers, and my colleagues can’t get a phone call returned from the education bureaucracy, then the department and school board aren’t accountable. It is time we create a system that is accountable to Ohio’s parents and students.”