Legislative Watch – February 17, 2023

House Leadership Announces “Priority Bills”

On Wednesday, February 15, 2023, Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R- Kitts Hill), held a press conference to unveil twelve priority bills for the 135th General Assembly.

Among the listed bills was House Bill 10, sponsored by Representatives Jaime Callender (R- Concord) and Bride Rose Sweeney (D- Cleveland), that expresses the intent of the General Assembly to continue to phase-in the Fair School Funding plan, and, “if practicable” fully phase it in sooner. However, the bill does not call for updating the base cost components of the plan which is critical to ensure that the funding plan is keeping up with the true cost of educating students. OEA appreciates the commitment to the Fair School Funding Plan and looks forward to working with members of the Ohio General Assembly to make improvements to the plan. 

Also listed as a priority bill was House Bill 11, sponsored by Representatives Riordan McClain (R- Nevada) and Marilyn John (R- Shelby), dubbed “the backpack bill”, which would create a universal voucher program where every K-12 student would be eligible to receive funds to pay for private school tuition or home education. OEA opposes the adoption or expansion of voucher programs. HB 11 would divert resources from public schools attended by 90% of Ohio’s students to provide vouchers to current private school students.

Additionally, House Bill 1, sponsored by Representative Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon), proposes to create a flat income tax rate of 2.75%.  Ohioans who make under $26,050 would continue to pay no income tax. To pay for the proposed income tax changes, the bill eliminates the state payment to local governments for the 10% and 2.5% tax rollbacks.  The elimination of these payments would result in an estimated $1.2 billion loss for school districts and other local government entities.  The bill also changes the local real property assessment percentage from 35% to no greater than 31.5%.   OEA is opposed to the bill. 

Below is a brief description of other bills mentioned that deal with education:

  • HB 6- Single-Sex Sports Teams: Requires schools, state institutions of higher education, and private colleges designate separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex. OEA is opposed to this bill.
  • HB 8- Parental Notification: Requires public schools to adopt a policy on parental notification on student health and well-being and instructional materials with sexually explicit content. OEA is opposed to this bill.
  • HB 9- Teacher Education Programs: Includes OEA supported reforms to the Resident Educator Program and Summative Assessment; supports “Grown Your Own Teacher Programs”; establishes a loan repayment program for eligible teachers.
  • HB 12- Reform the Department of Education: This bill would limit the powers of the State Board of Education and create a new cabinet level agency called the Department of Education and Workforce Development.

Also among more than 50 bills introduced in the House on Wednesday was House Joint Resolution 1, sponsored by Representative Brian Stewart (R- Ashville). This is a proposed constitutional amendment that, if adopted, would require 60% of the vote to approve future constitutional amendments on the ballot. OEA opposes this proposal as it undercuts majority rule and weakens the ability of Ohio voters to decide key issues.

OEA will continue to keep members apprised of key issues as they move through the legislative process and issue action alerts for you to make your voice heard on these important issues.

Senate Bill 47: Prohibits Certain Types of Paid Leave for Union Political Activity or Lobbying

SB 47, introduced by Senator Stephen Huffman (R-Tipp City), has been introduced and assigned to the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee. OEA opposes SB 47, which prohibits public employers from providing, or agreeing to a provision in a collective bargaining agreement, that provides paid leave or any other form of compensation for a public employee to engage in either: (1) Political activities performed by, or on behalf of, an employee organization that involve advocating for the election or defeat of any political candidate; (2) Lobbying activities performed by, or on behalf of, an employee organization that involve attempting to influence the passage or defeat of federal or state legislation, local ordinances, or any ballot measure.

Senate Bill 49: Student Religious Expression Days

SB 49, introduced by Senator Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester), received first hearing sponsor testimony in the Ohio Senate Education Committee on February 14, 2023. SB 49 requires each public school to adopt a policy that reasonably accommodates the sincerely held religious beliefs and practices of students, which includes three excused absences for religious expression days. OEA is reviewing the bill.

Congressional Bills Push for Teacher Pay Increases

OEA’s efforts to increase the minimum teacher salary will be joined by federal efforts to increase teacher pay with two separate bills in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, the American Teacher Act, which was reintroduced by Representative Frederica Wilson (D-FL) last week, would incentivize states and school districts to increase the minimum teacher salary to $60,000 and provide yearly adjustments for inflation through a new federal grant program.

In the U.S. Senate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced at a town hall on Monday evening that he intends to introduce the Pay Teachers Act. Joined by NEA President Becky Pringle, Sen. Sanders emphasized the need to increase teacher pay to “attract the best and brightest young people in our country into teaching [and ensure that] those young people [are] proud of the profession they have chosen.”

Both the American Teachers Act and the Pay Teachers Act elevate what NEA President Pringle called a “teacher pay crisis” at the Sanders town hall as one of the primary reasons for ongoing staffing shortages across the country.  These Bills help elevate the focus on the educator staffing crisis and provide support from the national level to OEA’s efforts to address the educator staffing shortage in Ohio.  OEA continues to advance the recommendations of the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Educator Voice Academy during the 135th General Assembly to secure legislative initiatives to recruit and retain qualified, committed educators for every public-school student in Ohio.

For an archive of past Legislative Watch releases, visit the Legislative Watch archive.