To be honest, I had already written the first paragraph of this update yesterday – predicting that the Ohio House would indeed go along with SB178. But weird things happen in the lame duck session – especially on the last day of deliberations which ran until after 6:00 AM today. Here’s what happened:
Over the last few days in the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee, there have been three hearings on SB178 – one lasting until almost 10:00 P.M. The committee heard from a wide variety of witnesses, mostly opponents. (Sidenote: On Tuesday – 12.13.22 – two of the witnesses who provided testimony should sound familiar to OAGC conference attendees. Stephen and Kristina Ma, OAGC Distinguished Student award winners, testified against the bill.) The committee recessed in late morning yesterday to consider potential amendments. But the committee never reconvened. The democrats on the committee along with some of the conservative republican members had major concerns about the bill. Many of the concerns echoed those voiced by the witnesses:
- The voice of the people would be shut out of education policy concerns.
- The bill was being rushed through too quickly for such a weighty topic.
- Non-public, non-chartered (08 – homeschool) schools would be left vulnerable.
Apparently, there was no consensus reached by the majority caucus on the bill, so it was not put on the floor for a vote. Here is where things got a little crazy (as happens in lame duck). The Ohio Senate took things in their own hands, and inserted SB178 into HB151, a teacher residency bill. HB151 had already been amended to include a bill prohibiting trans students from participating in K-12 sports. For good measure, the senate also stuffed in a measure that would prohibit districts from requiring COVID vaccines, which is already prohibited. Ultimately, this Christmas bill collapsed under the weight of its ornaments. The house voted 46 to 41 not to concur with the senate amendments. There are 99 members in the house, so clearly the fact that only 87 were available to vote likely made a difference.
In case you are wondering, while SB178 is dead for this legislative session, it will definitely be reintroduced in the 135th General Assembly. How it will look and what the process will be for moving the bill forward will be different from this time around. The new Speaker of the House, Derrek Merren, voted against accepting the senate amendments and has been said to want a part in shaping any new legislation. As he has served on no education committees and is a first-term representative, it is unclear what his education views are.
At any rate, lame duck 2022, was a wild one. See you next year!