The latest proposal to give Ohio’s governor more power overseeing K-12 education cleared the Republican-led state Senate on Wednesday despite objections that lawmakers are rushing legislation to significantly change decision-making about academic standards, model curricula and school district ratings, among other things.
Oversight of the state’s education department would shift to a director appointed by the governor, instead of the State Board of Education and the superintendent it elects. The bill would also rename the Ohio Department of Education as the Department of Education and Workforce, and transfer many of the state school board’s powers to the department’s new director.
The department would be divided into the Division of Primary and Secondary Education and the Division of Career Technical Education. The bill’s sponsor, GOP Sen. Bill Reineke, of Tiffin, said that structure would help promote more diverse post-high school career paths and make students more aware of their options outside of a traditional four-year degree.
Supporters of the bill, including GOP Gov. Mike DeWine, say the changes would promote more accountability and transparency than the current structure, which they say is bogged down with political infighting among school board members and has been too slow to address issues such as the decline in student achievement during the pandemic.
Teachers unions and advocacy groups have voiced concern over how quickly the legislation, first introduced on Nov. 15, is moving during the final days of the current legislative session. They say there hasn’t been enough time for educators and other stakeholders to have input on such a drastic change.
But it’s not the first time the idea has been heard. Some of DeWine’s predecessors — both Republican and Democrat — had backed the idea of giving the governor’s office more control over the Department of Education or educational oversight in the state.
The measure next heads to the Ohio House for further consideration.
Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.