Senate Bill would wrest most authority from Ohio State Board of Education

Legislation introduced to the Ohio Senate proposes to overhaul the Ohio State Board of Education and remove nearly all its authority and duties.

If Senate Bill 178, introduced to Ohio State Senate’s Primary and Secondary Education committee by State Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Toledo, passes as written, the authority of the OSBE would be limited to approving Ohio teacher certifications.

In place of a superintendent of public instruction overseeing the Ohio public school educational system, the bill calls for the establishment of a new cabinet position with the governor to manage the responsibilities.

Dan Tierney, spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine, said the governor is not part of the proposed legislation.

“Ohio is probably the strongest home-rule state in the United States. We do a lot of it at local levels and even on state boards,” Tierney said. “Many officials are of the opinion that local school boards respond to local community needs and that is where a lot of school policies are made. This bill would not impact that.”

Susan Tave Zelman was Ohio’s state superintendent of public instruction for 10 years, appointed during the administration of former Gov. Bob Taft.

“The government wants to control the educational agenda because state funding is a big part of a state budget and they don't want to compete with a state board or a superintendent who reports back to that board. They have their own educational agenda.”

This isn’t the first time the Ohio State Board of Education has been under threat, she said.

“DeWine isn’t the first in trying to do this. It dates back to [former Gov. George] Voinovich. He took 23 elected positions [on the board] and turned them into eight gubernatorial appointments. Then [former Gov. John] Kasich tried to get his candidate to be supported by the state board to get someone out,” said Zelman.

She wrote about her experiences in her recently published book, “The Buying and Selling of American Education.” She devoted a chapter to scenarios similar to what is unfolding now.

Tierney denied Gov. DeWine is playing a role in the legislation.

“Bills are the prerogative of the Legislature. Our office has not initiated any legislation, but we will be monitoring it closely,” Tierney said.

Sen. Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, expressed displeasure about the proposed legislation.

“I am deeply concerned about the implications that overhauling the responsibilities of the department of education and state board of education would have, especially without an extensive review process. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this legislation and look forward to hearing from our students, teachers, and other stakeholders through the committee process,” said Craig.

In November, three Democrats won seats on the state school board, giving Democrats the majority.

According to State Sen. Andrew O. Brenner, R-Delaware, who chairs the committee with SB 178, several meetings are expected over the next few weeks to discuss the proposed legislation. A potential vote is possible by year’s end before the General Assembly ends its lame duck session.

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