On Wednesday, the Ohio State Senate voted along party lines to gut the state board of education’s power, renaming the Ohio Department of Education the Department of Education and Workforce, or DEW, and instituting a director who would be a member of the governor’s cabinet. Republicans in the legislature say change is needed to improve accountability. Democrats and educators worry this is a power grab, reaction to 3 newly elected Democratic board members and a political motivation to continue culture wars in the schools. Either way, this change will have major implications for Ohio’s students.
Political Power Grab or Needed Change?
Ohio Senate Bill 1 was passed despite objections from multiple education board members and the Ohio School Boards Association. “By stripping it of all but its regulatory role, the board would no longer be acting in any significant way on behalf of the citizens they represent,” said Nicole Piscitani, lobbyist for the Ohio School Boards Association.
Also objecting to the bill are teachers’ unions and local officials.
“If you pass it, it will do more harm than it will do good because it’s really not addressing the actual needs,” Cleveland City Council member Richard Starr said in protest of the bill. “We need more resources for the community for a child to be able to wake up and have the actual support. Because I can’t learn if I’m hungry. I can’t learn if I have to deal with domestic violence at home or at night. I can’t learn when I have to be the older sibling, helping my siblings to and from school when my mom has to work two or three jobs. So those test scores reflect some of the issues that we’ve dealt with.”
Republican lawmakers contend that the bill is needed to address structural problems, Sen. Andrew Brenner said, “This is a structural problem. You’ve got to have somebody in charge that wants to (see) the urgency. The governor is somebody that can be held accountable to try to put some urgency and demand and try to fix the system.”
Should the bill be passed by the Ohio House, Governor Dewine is expected to sign it. According to Cleveland.com, “An amendment inserted into SB 1 on Tuesday afternoon changed the implementation date from June 30 – which would have had the proposed DEW officials in place for the next school year – to 90 days after the bill’s effective date, or roughly six months after the Gov. Mike DeWine would sign SB 1.”