In the midst of the big 2022 Christmas week storm, a frozen sprinkler-system pipe burst at the Ohio Statehouse and flooded the state senate chamber. This year in Ohio’s gerrymandered, supermajority Republican legislature, democracy itself has been so severely threatened that many of us wondered if the event was an expression of cosmic justice.
As Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor retired due to the state’s mandated age limit, O’Connor—herself a Republican—condemned legislators who created one gerrymandered legislative and Congressional district map after another, O’Connor told the Associated Press: “My advice to them was, please review the Constitution and maybe go back to, what is it, fourth or fifth grade and learn about our institutions… And maybe, just maybe, review what it was like in Germany when Hitler intimidated the judiciary and passed those laws that allowed for the treatment of the Jewish population… This country cannot stand if the judiciary is intimidated.” The AP reports that, “In retirement, she has pledged to champion a constitutional amendment that fixes Ohio’s redistricting process…”
Ohio legislators have shown that in 2023 they are determined to increase the threshold for passing a state constitutional amendment from a simple 50 percent majority to a 60 percent majority. Here is Brent Larkin, the Plain Dealer‘s editorial page director from 1991 to 2009: “Many of these same Ohio officeholders and legislators involved in the scheme to limit citizen involvement in state government are the same ones who ignored the Ohio Constitution when they defied the will of the people by drawing gerrymandered legislative districts designed to remove any element of fairness from the redistricting process.” “The betrayal of public trust is breathtaking, though hardly surprising. The legislature leaving office is probably the most unscrupulous in Ohio’s history. Statehouse insiders believe the one taking office this week will be worse.”
With such serious threats to democracy and a mass of controversial bills on a range of issues, one danger is that concerns about public education will just slip through the cracks. Because it is essential that the public be informed about our state’s most pervasive and influential institution—our public schools, here is a summary of what happened in Ohio public education policy this year.
Bad Things that Did Not Happen in 2022
The 134th Ohio General Assembly did not pass Ohio Senate Bill 178 to hollow out the Ohio State Board of Education and shift its primary responsibilities (including overseeing the Department of Education itself) to a new cabinet Department of Education and the Workforce under the Governor. Politics have already to some degree invaded the Ohio State Board of Education, because the governor already appoints 8 of its 19 members. And during the past two years there have been several legislative/gubernatorial interventions to gerrymander the districts of elected members to favor Republicans, and to fire unruly members and appoint new members who would be more faithful to Ohio Republicans’ priorities.
In 2022, the Ohio Senate passed SB 178 to move the important functions of the State Board of Education under the governor’s control, to insulate the state board from the will of the people, and to remove many of the State Board’s responsibilities. In December, during the last week of the legislative session, SB 178 was heard by the House Education Committee, but the bill never came up for committee vote and never was acted on by the Ohio House. At 2:30 AM, before the the 134th General Assembly permanently adjourned at 6:30 AM, Senate President Matt Huffman inserted the entire 2,144 page SB 178 into HB 151 to ban transgender girls from sports, inserted another amendment to ban school vaccine mandates, and sent the entire package back to the Ohio House, where it failed by 6 votes. Although this problematic bill failed in the 134th General Assembly, Senate President Matt Huffman has pledged another attempt during 2023 to politicize the State Board of Education in the 135th Ohio General Assembly.
A Mass of Culture War Bills Will Die Because They Never Came Up for a Vote (For details, see Honesty for Ohio Education or the Northeast Ohio Friends of Public Education.)
- HB 322, HB 327, and HB 616 to ban teaching and materials about divisive concepts including racism and sexual orientation.
- HB 529 to demand that school curricula be posted online.
- HB 454 to ban gender affirming care for minors.
- HB 704 to affirm that gender identity is identifiable at birth according to DNA.
- HB 722 to ban discussion of any ‘sexually explicit’ content and establish a ‘parents bill of rights.’
- SB 361 to enable former military troops to become teachers with relaxed credentialing.
- SB 365 to include curriculum about free market capitalism in educational standards.
HB 290, the “Backpack” universal education savings account voucher program never came up for a vote in the 134th General Assembly. Most people expect, however, that a similar bill will be introduced in the 135th General Assembly, perhaps as part of the FY 2024-2025 biennial budget bill. For more information see here.
Good Things that Did Not Happen in 2022
The Ohio Legislature did not pass HB 497 to eliminate the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. After HB 497 passed the Ohio House by a margin of 82-10 and after the bill was unanimously endorsed by the Ohio State Board of Education, HB 497 was never considered by the Ohio Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee and never forwarded for a vote by the full Ohio Senate. The bill died with the end of the 134th Ohio General Assembly. The bill would have eliminated mandatory retention in third grade of any student who does not reach a proficient score on the state’s third grade achievement test. Research demonstrates that holding kids back in grade damages self esteem and makes it more likely that students will drop out of school before graduating from high school. For background see here.
Bad Things that Happened in 2022
The Ohio State Board of Education adopted, by a 10-7 vote, a resolution to oppose the Biden Administration’s proposed addition of LGBTQ protections to Title IX. On December 13, 2022, the Columbus Dispatch‘s Anna Staver reported: “After months of debate and hundreds of personal testimonies, Ohio’s State Board of Education voted 10 to 7… to push back against the Biden Administration’s plan to add LGBTQ protections to Title IX.” For more information, see here.
The Ohio Legislature passed an amendment to HB 45 to weaken state incentives to improve preschool and childcare programs. HB 45 eliminates the requirement that preschool and childcare centers participate in the state’s own Step Up to Quality program to receive state funds. Signal News‘s Paul Rochford reported that before this bill passed, “all early childhood and preschool providers funded by the Department of Education… (were) required to participate in the rating system and… receive a rating of three or more stars to be eligible for state funding.” The change is likely to undermine the quality of childcare and preschool for Ohio’s poorest children. (Governor DeWine has not yet signed HB 45 and could still potentially line-item veto this provision.)
Mysterious Ohio State Tuition Tax Credit Voucher Program surfaces two years after it was established in the fine print of HB 110, the 2022-2023 state budget. Suddenly parents have received flyers from private schools announcing a new tuition tax credit program that will fund private and religious schools at the expense of the state’s general revenue fund. Here is one brand new article covering this program. The only news I could uncover about this program at the time it was passed is this summary from The Highland County Press.
4 thoughts on “Ohio’s Public Schools Had a Rough 2022 and Face Bleak Legislative Prospects in 2023”
Reblogged this on Politicians Are Poody Heads and commented:
Unfortunately, Ohio is not the only state facing these problems.
Hope you had a lovely Christmas. Obviously you did more than a little work during that “relaxing” time. Your work continues to the standard for thoroughness. It seems you continually raise the bar for journalists. It’s hard not to consider the national topics that could be improved by your commitment to research and clarity. Wishing you a great new year.
PS The McCarthy could great theater if it weren’t highlighting the government culture that has become so dysfunctional.
Be well. 👏😘
Sent from my iPad Rich Ten Eyck 609.661.9320
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