Jan Resseger keeps close tabs on education in Ohio, which is constantly under attack in the legislature. In this post, she reviews what happened in the past year. The “good” consists of bad things that didn’t happen. The Republican-dominated legislature is intent on constant privatization of public funds. Ohio is rife with failing charters and ineffective vouchers. The legislature wants more failure. The chair of the House Education Committee, Andrew Brenner, calls public schools “socialism.” The Ohio legislature deserves a spot on this blog’s Wall of Shame.

Jan Resseger wrote:

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…”

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 Educationor 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 programnever 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…

Keep reading to learn about the “Bad Things That Happened in 2022” and the One Good Thing That Happened.

Jan concluded her post:

There is no reason to believe that in 2023 the legislative majority of Ohio’s 135th General Assembly will be supportive of Ohio’s public schools. Persistence will be required as advocates press for the full six year phase-in of adequate school funding under the Cupp-Patterson Fair School Funding Plan. And, as Ohio Public Education Partners declares, we must demand that the Legislature “rejects the school privatization agenda, which includes school voucher schemes (and) charter schools….”