Advocacy Update 11.1.21 – State Board Shake-Up and Bills We are Watching

State Board of Education Shake-Up – In a somewhat unexpected but wholly predictable move, two State Board of Education of Ohio members resigned last week. The resignations were from governor-appointed members, Laura Kohler, who was president of the board, and Eric Poklar. Ohio Senate president, Matt Huffman, indicated to Governor DeWine that the Senate would not vote to confirm their appointments which is required for them to continue to serve. The resignations came after the two appointed members voted against repealing Resolution 20 from the summer of 2019 which opposed racism among other things. Since the Resolution 20 vote, the state board has been embroiled in a debate about equity and the so-called critical race theory (CRT) which was not part of the resolution and not taught in any Ohio district. It has put almost all debate about any substantive education policy issues on the back burner.

The governor quickly nominated two more individuals to serve on the board, Richard J. Chernesky and Brandon Kern. Both nominees are known to be associated with Lt. Governor John Husted.

Chernesky is a lawyer with Dinsmore in Dayton concentrating on general corporate law. He has previously served on the board of trustees for Sinclair Community College and the Lutheran School of Dayton. He is also a past member of the Board of Directors for the Miami Valley Hospital Foundation and the Better Business Bureau of Dayton/Miami Valley. 

Kern is the senior director for state and national policy with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. Prior to that, he served as director of policy and legislative affairs in the office of Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague. He also served in the Ohio Senate as and education policy analyst for a short period and is known by most education lobbyists.

Will the resignations and new appointments bring an end to the monthly hours-long debates on CRT, the 1619 project, and racism? That remains to be seen. The State Board has a great deal of work to accomplish with a new state superintendent search, a report card overhaul, and a new funding system to implement among many other issues.

Bills We Are Watching

SB205 – Prohibits districts from mandating masks. This bill and several others have largely been put on hold as the leaders of the Ohio General Assembly appear to be satisfied with that the governor is not going to institute masks of vaccine mandates.

HB327 – Prohibits the teaching of divisive topics in K-12 and university programs. The bill was amended last week to clarify some of the language. However, opponents of the bill have indicated that the changes do little to assuage their concerns. The Coalition for Honest Education stated, “What HB 327 would allow or disallow in educational settings remains unclear and the core nature of the bill is punitive as it has the potential to withhold essential state funding from K-12 schools, colleges and universities, state agencies and political subdivisions.”

HB298 – Reconstitutes the State Board of Education to Elected Only. The bill has not had any opponent testimony so far. The bill was amended last week to increase the board membership to fifteen to mirror the Ohio congressional districts. The bill has not been. voted out of committee.  

HB368 – College Credit Plus Weighted Grades – The bill has not received opponent or interested party testimony at this point and has not been on the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee agenda in recent weeks. Look for continued hearings after the Thanksgiving break if it does not appear on next week’s agenda.

In addition to these bills and others, OAGC is concerned about the progress or lack thereof on the report card reform that needs to be completed by March 31st, 2022.