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Bill to reduce Ohio’s State Board of Education to elected-only positions introduced




A ballot counter machine. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal)

A bill that would reduce the size of Ohio’s State Board of Education and eliminate governor-appointed positions has been introduced with GOP support in the Ohio House.

On July 5, House Bill 235 was introduced by sponsor state Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur, R-Ashtabula.

Fowler Arthur, a former state education board member herself, entered the potential legislation with 27 of her fellow Republican House members on board.

HB 235 would set plans in place for the 19-member board to be pared down to 15 by 2027, with the eight positions appointed by the governor removed in a phase-out starting in 2025, when 19 members would be present, but the elected positions would rise to 15.

On Jan. 1, 2027, “the state board of education shall consist of fifteen members,” the bill states.

The elections for those members will be chosen “from each congressional district at the general election held on November 5, 2024,” after which elected board members will serve four-year terms, under the bill.

The new bill also suggests that state board elections may require candidates to declare a political party. The board has been historically part of nonpartisan races, but HB 235 would remove those races from state law regarding the “nonpartisan ballot.”

That provision allows nonpartisanship for judicial candidates for municipal court, county court and court of common please, along with members of local boards of education. The new bill adds the phrase “other than the state board of education” to the provision.

A similar, though bipartisan, bill was introduced in 2021, setting out to get rid of governor-appointed spots on the board.

During that attempt, state Rep. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, said going to an all-elected board would “return the original intent and give taxpayers a voice on issues and policies that will affect their children’s education.”

That bill had three hearings, including supporting testimony from the Ohio School Boards Association, Ohio Association of School Business Officials, the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, and some current members of the state board.

Opponent testimony wasn’t submitted in any of the hearings, but the bill died in House Government Oversight Committee.

A few things have changed since the last time the measure was attempted. Just last month, the state budget was approved with significant changes to the Ohio Department of Education.

Now, the department will be the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce, and the director of the ODE will be under the direction of the governor’s office. Two deputy directors will also be a part of the department, one covering primary and secondary education, and the other covering workforce.

Those changes, originally under Senate Bill 1 before they were inserted into the budget, also include limits to the State Board of Education.

Prior to the passage of the budget, the board was the main hub for curriculum changes and educational materials, teacher/staff licensing and discipline, hiring of the superintendent of public instruction, and property issues with school districts.

With the changes in the budget, the roles of the board will be pared down to include only issues like teacher/staff licensing and discipline, hiring of the superintendent, and school district property issues.

HB 235 will now be assigned to a House committee for consideration and public testimony.

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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