12.7. 22 Update – The Ohio Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee voted out SB178 on 12.6.22. Governor DeWine has indicated that he supports the bill. The question remains whether the bill will pass in this lame duck session or if we will see it again in the new year, possibly as part of the massive biennial budget bill. One of the proponent witnesses indicated the Chapter 119 hearings will be sufficient for public input on education issues. This is completely false. Not all education policies are subject to Chapter 119 hearings, and as those hearings come at the end of months-long discussions at the State Board, almost no policies are changed as a result of those hearings. This bill will radically alter the ability for the general public to affect education policy change at the state level.
12.3.22 – The Ohio Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee held two hearings this week on SB178. The bill would remove most authority from the State Board of Education and move the Ohio Department of Education under the governor’s office. November 29th testimony was limited to proponent witnesses. The committee also accepted a substitute bill which totals more than 2100 pages. You can read the bill at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bFgOObiBut0cS5q9_y9ka-JCE0bFmPDZ/view?usp=share_link. If you want the shorthand version of the bill the LSC (Legislative Service Commission) summary can be found at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1TLqb1doL0KaZBXy98sz9l03mSVr01gk5/view?usp=share_link.
Most of the witnesses commented only the importance of career technical education, but a few supported the change in education governance which would disempower the State Board of Education from most education policy work. Two notable exceptions in witness testimony were John Marchausen, current superintendent of Dublin City Schools, and Chad Aldis, of Fordham Institute. Fordham’s support of the change in governance is not a surprise as they supported the previous bill in 2018. Marchausen’s support was interesting as he identified himself as the superintendent of Dublin City Schools but did not use the district’s letterhead for his testimony. Marchausen noted that he was a protégé of former State Superintendent Dick Ross. Ross served at the behest of former Governor John Kasich, who was not a huge fan of the State Board of Education. Another witness, Troy Macintosh, who took aim at the department was from the Ohio Christian Education Network. Macintosh cited difficulties in transportation and the ACE scholarships as issues that were difficult to resolve due to ODE’s bureaucracy. None of the proponent witnesses specified how the change in governance would directly settle their problems with the state board and the department. Ironically, some of the criticism against the state board was prolonged discussions of social issues, which have plagued the General Assembly as well.
To view all of the testimony from the Senate hearings, please go to https://ohiosenate.gov/committees/primary-and-secondary-education/document-archive and click on the November 29 and November 30th meeting tabs. To view the hearings, go to ohiochannel.org and look up the archives for the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee hearings.
Most of the pushback from the Democrats on the Senate committee was with regard to the speed of the bill being possibly slated to be passed next week. The committee has yet to hear opponent testimony. Only one education group, OEA, offered interested party testimony asking the process to be slowed down. The committee chair plans to hold two more hearings next week on the bill (one marked “as needed”) with a possible vote.
Given that the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee is not meeting next week, there are two possibilities for the future of this bill. The first one is that it will pass the committee and possibly the senate and then die when the year ends. The second possibility, which is beginning to look more real, is that the bill will be stuffed into what is known as a “Christmas tree” bill. A Christmas tree bill is a bill that has typically passed one chamber and then is heavily amended in the second chamber with any number of unrelated bills to be passed without public debate in the first chamber. Leadership from both the house and senate debate behind closed doors what the details will look like in Christmas tree bills. These bills are typically fraught with any number of unintended consequences given the lack of full debate on the issues.
It is still unclear if Governor DeWine or Speaker of the House, Bob Cupp, support this bill or not, and which groups will oppose the bill. But if the bill doesn’t pass in the lame duck session, it is highly likely that we will see it again in the new year in the 135th General Assembly.
If this bill passes, it will severely limit the ability of individuals and smaller organizations to provide input into education decisions. Hearings stopped on HB512 before OAGC could provide testimony. But it might be useful for gifted advocates to read the OAGC draft testimony for HB512. If HB178 is anything like HB512, it will be a blow to education advocates who want their voices to be heard.