Legislative Watch – November 18, 2022

SBOE Urges Elimination of Mandatory Student Retention Under the TGRG

On Tuesday, November 15, 2022, the State Board of Education passed a resolution calling upon the General Assembly to end the harmful practice of mandatory retention of students under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. OEA has long advocated for such a change because high-stakes decisions about students should not be based on standardized test scores. The Board’s resolution passed by a wide margin of 18-1.

Passage of this resolution is further evidence of broad, bipartisan support for ending mandatory student retention under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. House Bill 497, which passed the House in June by a vote of 82-10, would accomplish this. Passage of HB 497 would allow for educators and parents to make determinations about student retention based on the best interests and abilities of the student. 

In order to become law, HB 497 needs to be passed by the Ohio Senate before the end of the year. Click here to urge your Senator to support this important bill.

Proposal Would Limit Powers of State Board, Make Education and Workforce a Cabinet Agency

Senator William Reineke (R- Tiffin) is sponsoring a bill to severely limit the powers and duties of the State Board of Education. Senate Bill 178 as introduced was a single sentence expressing the intent of the General Assembly to “reform the functions and responsibilities of the State Board of Education, the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Department of Education.” During sponsor testimony before the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee, Reineke outlined the provisions of a forthcoming substitute bill.

The bill would restructure the Department of Education and create a new cabinet level agency under the Governor. The Department of Education and Workforce would have a director appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate.  The department would be divided into two divisions: Primary and Secondary Education, and Career Technical Education. This new department would be generally responsible for enforcing and adopting rules under the Ohio Administrative Code.

The State Board of Education would continue to exist with no change in its structure or membership. However, the functions of the Board would be limited to implementation and enforcement of rules regarding teacher licensure; review and rendering disposition of cases involving educator or staff conduct; and review and decisions of school district territory transfers. In all other matters the Board could make recommendations to the newly formed department. The Board would also continue to appoint the Superintendent of Public Instruction, but he or she would serve as Board Secretary and an advisor to the Director of the Department of Education and Workforce.

OEA has concerns about this type of change being considered in the limited timeline of lame duck session. The needs and concerns of all stakeholders must be heard and addressed to ensure that students, educators, and schools receive the support and resources they need for success. Senator Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware), Chair of the Senate Education Committee, has stated that the bill will receive several hearings and may be voted on by the Senate in the coming weeks.

Changes to Elections and Voting Rights Poised to Move in Lame Duck

A substitute version of House Bill 294 was unveiled this week. The bill, sponsored by Bill Seitz (R- Green Township) and Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth), would make several changes to election laws and voting rights. The bill would require voters to use a photo ID. Current law allows voters who do not have a state issued ID to use utility bills or bank statements as identification. The bill would also eliminate August special elections. Other changes include prohibiting the Secretary of State from sending unsolicited absentee ballot requests to Ohio voters and removing language to allow the BMV to update voter information.

OEA’s legislative policies support the ability of citizens to freely and easily exercise their right to vote. Specifically, we have a policy to oppose strict photo ID laws for voters as they can serve as an unnecessary hurdle for voters including college students, the elderly, poor and disabled. OEA also has a policy opposing elimination of the August special election as it limits the opportunities for school districts to seek levies.

HB 554 (R-Bird/D-Lightbody) – Expedited Pathway for Renewing Expired Educator Licenses

After being passed unanimously by the Ohio House of Representatives before summer recess, HB 554 received its first hearing in the Ohio Senate Education Primary & Secondary Committee on November 15, 2022. OEA supports HB 554, which is designed to be one piece in the larger puzzle of reducing teacher shortages.

HB 554 does the following:

  • Requires the State Board of Education, upon application, to issue a nonrenewable, two-year temporary educator license to individuals with expired professional teacher’s certificates or professional educator licenses.
  • Requires the State Board to issue a professional educator license with any applicable endorsements to an individual who, during the duration of the temporary license, completes either 18 continuing education units (180 contact hours) or 6 semester hours of coursework in the area of licensure or in an area related to the teaching field. The professional educator license and any endorsements are valid for teaching in the same subject areas and grades for which individual’s expired certificate or license was issued.

HB 748 – Requires Local Board Policy on Professional Conduct

HB 748 (R-Bird) received first hearing bill sponsor testimony on November 15, 2022 in the Ohio House Primary and Secondary Committee. HB 748 would require local boards of education to adopt a policy declaring that the board expects all professional staff members to maintain high standards with respect to co-worker relationships and in the performance of the staff member’s professional duties. OEA has concerns with including professional conduct requirements in Ohio law, which will create confusion with professional conduct guidance already provided in the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct that is approved by the State Board of Education.

HB 748 requires local school boards to adopt policies that prohibit school employees from doing the following:

  • Engaging in political, partisan, ideological, or religious advocacy by compelling a student to adopt, affirm, or adhere to a specific political, partisan, ideological, or religious belief;
  • Unfairly evaluating a student’s work because it does not reflect a specific political, partisan, ideological, or religious belief.