Advocacy Alert – 10.13.17 – SB216 Removes Critical Gifted Provisions

This week, Senator Matt Huffman (R) – Lima, introduced SB216 that eliminates many school regulations. Among those are that are eliminated are a few that will negatively affect gifted children. The primary issue of concern is the prohibition of State Board of Education to require teachers without gifted licensure who are teaching gifted students to receive gifted professional development. The specific language is: 

“Sec. 3324.12. No rule adopted by the state board of education pursuant to this chapter, section 3301.07 of the Revised Code, or any other provision of the Revised Code shall require an individual who holds an educator license issued under sections 3319.22 to 3319.31 of the Revised Code and who is designated as a provider of gifted services, but who does not hold a license or endorsement specifically in gifted education, to complete professional development related to gifted education.”

Gifted professional development for classroom teachers providing services in the classroom is just now being implemented across the state after four years of debate at the State Board of Education. It is more than a little frustrating that there is already an attempt to throw away the work of the State Board which received an unbelievable amount of input from every major school organization in the state. The elimination of this provision would mean that districts will claim that gifted students in any classroom can be counted as served with no actual service at all.  It makes a mockery of any attempt at integrity of gifted services.

Another issue that is bad for gifted students is a requirement that sub-group sizes remain at 30 for accountability and reporting purposes. These sub-group sizes are scheduled to be phased-down to 15 over the next few years under the new Ohio ESSA plan. This essentially hides the poor performance of minority, students in poverty, ELL, students with disabilities, and gifted students in smaller, rural districts. We know that gifted students in these districts are the least likely to be identified and served in the state. 

There are also some issues under College Credit Plus that are troubling: 

1. If the same course is offered at both a high school and a university, the student must take the course at the high school. This is very bad news for our most gifted students who need to take the highest quality courses to get into universities that will not accept credit from high school dual enrollment courses. This really undermines student and family choice. 

2. Text book costs would be split between parents and students. Economically disadvantaged students would be exempt. Homeschooled students would be required to foot the whole bill. 

Senator Huffman has indicated that he knows not all of the provisions in the bill will remain. Most of the provisions were suggested by his local area superintendents, and BASA (Superintendents’ organizations) representatives are claiming they are not responsible for the bill. However, the bill is being discussed superintendent meetings all over the state. I should note that superintendents in Northwest Ohio were front and center in the gifted operating standards debate about not wanting any requirements for gifted service standards. The anti-gifted provisions in this bill are therefore consistent with their views. 

In initial conversations with a few senators this week, the response seems to be: 

– Not all provisions in the bill will remain. The gifted PD elimination provision is probably not a main focus of the bill. (Though some superintendents will fight mightily to keep this provision intact.) 

– The bill will be vetted very, very carefully.

– If the bill is watered down too much, it may be pulled. (Let’s not count on that). 

OAGC will continue to meet with senators, but we will need to start to rally the troops once the bill is referred to the education committee and Senator Huffman offers sponsor testimony, which is scheduled for next Wednesday at 3:15 PM. You may be able to watch the hearing at More specifics will be posted after that hearing. The link to the senators on this committee is posted below.  It would be best for individual contacts and conversations at this point for those folks who know these people. They need particularly to know the progress that is currently being made in gifted PD in districts and why that has been important. 

It is really a shame that an end-run on the gifted operating standards has begun before even two months of implementation in this new school year. The truth is many districts are rising to the challenge, and a lot of good things are happening all over the state. We will definitely fight this one. Senator Huffman’s quote in his news conference was: 

“If the superintendent or the administrators are taking their time to try and get a particular issue handled that doesn’t really appear to be helping the school that ODE say’s you gotta do it, or the teacher is taken out of the class to get training they don’t really need because ODE or the General Assembly says you have to do it, then that’s all affecting the student… If it helps the superintendents run the school better, it helps the students.” 

Gifted advocates will need to prove to him and the other committee members that when it comes to gifted, this is a demonstrably false statement.

There are many other provisions in this bill, which you can read at the links I’ve provided below.