Ohio Senate committee previews amendments to education overhaul
After hearing more supportive testimony Tuesday for an overhaul of the Ohio Department of Education, Ohio’s Senate Education Committee previewed amendments planned for the legislation.
The Buckeye Institute and the Thomas Fordham Institute both entered their support of transforming the department into a more workforce-centric state agency with a leader under the governor’s umbrella.
Those two testimonies combined with several other supporters who spoke at last week’s Senate Education Committee meeting, including career tech center leadership and business leaders in favor of alternatives to a four-year liberal arts education.
When the committee considers the bill again, it could be with the addition of three new amendments, according to committee chair state Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware.
“We’ve had feedback from testimony and some interested party meetings,” Brenner told the committee on Tuesday.
Firstly, Brenner is hoping to amend the bill to include two deputy director positions under what would be the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, and require those deputies to “have relevant educational, managerial or professional experience as a pre-requisite for their nomination.”
“School administrative groups and other stakeholders asked us to include this requirement for the deputies as they will be working directly within those divisions,” Brenner said.
The other two amendments the committee plans to look at “as early as next week,” according to Brenner, would require the department to “publicly engage” interested parties when considering drafting administrative rules, and to specify that policies and guidance issued by the department goes through the full rule-making process, including review by the legislative Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, before any policy is considered enforceable.
Democrats on the committee said they plan to bring up their own amendments soon, but in the mean time, state Sen. Catherine Ingram, D-Cincinnati, said she is still questioning the timing of the bill.
“Because we are now in February, the intent I’m thinking is to get this done by the school year. What does that look like or does anybody know?” Ingram asked.
Brenner said additional public hearings on the bill will be “in the coming weeks,” but the future of the bill depends not only on the Senate committee or even a full Senate vote, though with a Republican majority in both places, passage seems likely.
“The intent is to pass the bill and get it into law, but I don’t know what the (Ohio House) is going to do with this,” Brenner said. “If the other chamber decides to hold the bill to the end of next year, I can’t control that.”
The next committee has not been scheduled.
Also at Tuesday’s committee hearing, state Sen. Michelle Reynolds, R-Canal Winchester, presented a new bill to allow students to take up to three excused “religious expression days” per school year in K-12 public schools in the state.
Immediately after being introduced, the bill was amended to specify that teachers and staff will not be included in the bill. According to Reynolds, the benefits package received by teachers and staff already allows for the days off and a fiscal analysis of the bill showed including school workers would constitute “a significant cost to the state” and its school districts.
This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.