COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Senate committee members moved Senate Bill 178 forward on Tuesday. The bill strips powers from the Ohio Board of Education and gives it to the governor’s office.
Republican state Sen. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) is the sponsor of the bill. In our previous reports, he stated that the department of education needs a massive overhaul to improve student success, such as combatting the struggling remediation rate and offering more workforce development opportunities.
"Senate Bill 178 addresses this need by refocusing our system at the state level on what matters most: Our children and their future," Reineke said in his testimony.
Right now, the Ohio Board of Education is responsible for what K-12 education looks like in the state.
Piet van Lier, a senior researcher at Policy Matters Ohio, said the 11 elected members of the board represent a democratic process and what the people in Ohio want for our students.
“The 11 school board members who are elected, they're out in their communities. They're talking to people who vote for them in their school districts or the many school districts they represent,” he said. “The current system, you know, it's not perfect, but it's really about democratically electing people who are going to shape education policy in our state.”
It would strip the board of powers to develop education policy, establish financial standards and implement programs.
Proponents of the bill said the Ohio Board of Education needs oversight, and that is what Senate Bill 178 provides, as it would go to one of the governor’s administration members instead.
Lisa Gray of Ohio Excels spoke to Senate Committee Tuesday, in support of the new oversight.
“Too often, Ohio governors and legislators bear the public’s blame whenever schools struggle, even though the current system denies them full oversight to make things better. Too much of that authority, including your authority as legislators, has been shifted elsewhere to a little-known, partly elected, partly appointed body: The State Board of Education,” she said. “We believe that a new education governance structure for Ohio should be about accountability, responsiveness, and relevance in today’s world. It should have clear lines of authority from policymaking, budget-setting, legislative intent, and executive coordination with other arms of government.”
Scott DiMauro is the president of Ohio’s Education Association. He said the Ohio Board of Education already has a system of checks and balances.
“The system is already set up with a series of checks and balances. The State Board of Education doesn't have the authority to create law. The legislature creates laws related to education policy all the time,” he said. “You have an independent board that has been created in our Constitution to provide oversight to the department, and it's not really clear that they're not doing their job.”
DiMauro said his members are concerned with the speed at which lawmakers are pushing SB178 through the legislative channels.
“It was only last week that that anyone had a chance to see the 2,100 pages that make up this bill. So I really hope that, you know, legislators are going to put the brakes on this, engage us, engage other partners in some deeper conversations about what exactly are the issues that need to be addressed, how do we work together to address this,” said DiMauro.
Lawmakers supporting the bill said there needs to be more opportunities and education around workforce development in public education, which has groups like the Ohio Home Builders Association in support of the proposed change.
“With increased attention on skills training, now is the time to raise awareness about career paths available to students, including those in residential construction industry. For construction to expand further, more workers must be recruited and trained for the construction sector,” said Vince Squillance, to the Senate Committee Tuesday.
Richard Bancroft is Ohio Home Builders Association’s incoming president for 2023. He said there is a labor shortage that is affecting our economy and this bill would put a successful career path in front of students that don’t or can’t go to college when high school is over.
“Our local associations and the National Association of Home Builders have continuously engaged in efforts of highlighting the importance of equipping Americans with the education and the training which are necessary to advance careers and rebuild the economy,” said Bancroft.
But DiMauro and other critics add that workforce development is something that can be implemented under the current system.
“I haven't really seen any direct connection between how restructuring the department and taking away authority from the State Board of Education gets to those goals,” he said. “If they think that that there needs to be more of an emphasis on a particular type of education like career tech, for example, they can do that. They can do that through the budget process. They can do that through education law.”
SB 178 will now move to a Senate vote, then to the House.
You can watch more about Senate Bill 178 and what it means for the future of education in Ohio in the player below:
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