Ohio House Bill 191 is generally known as the education bill that promotes tourism by altering the restrictions around when schools can begin (after Labor Day) and end (before Memorial Day).  There are exceptions to those parameters, but the main impetus of the bill remains a change from a required minimum number of days a district is in sessions to a minimum number of hours.  I posted a critique of the legislation a couple of weeks ago.

Yet ever since that post I’ve been wondering how Bill Hayes (R), one of the sponsors along with Bill Patmon (D), could have been so far off in his thinking. Here’s what the Columbus Dispatch reported after the committee heard from the public on February 1:

State Rep. Bill Hayes, R-Harrison Township, a co-sponsor of House Bill 191, said he was surprised by the testimony. Under current Ohio law, schools must be open for 182 days.

But that number, Hayes said, includes days when classes aren’t in session, including snow days, parent-teacher conferences and teacher in-service programming.

“At best in many districts, they’re going about 170,” Hayes said. “So this bill, I think, in many districts is going to create kids going to school longer.”

I kept wondering how he could have been so wrong, so I took a look back at both the bill and my calculations and think I may have discovered the disconnect.

First, Hayes’ comments about snow days, conferences, and teacher in-service training are a moot point.  Both the existing law and Hayes’ bill account for these days and hours in equal fashion.

The most interesting change is in the minimum requirements.  Current law mandates that schools hold classes on 182 days, for five clock hours per day (academic classes).  Simple math shows us that this adds up to a minimum legal requirement of 910 total hours of school per year.

House Bill 191 actually requires an increase in the minimum number of hours of academic instruction up to 1,050.  [Brief note: the laws differentiate between grades K-6 and 7-12, but the calculations for K-6 account for recesses in their own unique way rendering the number of hours essentially the same for each grade band.]  So while I talked about the school year for my son potentially dropping in the number of days, it can be said that Hayes’ proposal actually increases the minimum standard for schools by 140 total hours per year.

So why are we claiming that 4 weeks will be cut from the school year when Hayes’ seems to have added 140 hours?

Because the vast majority of Ohio school districts aren’t working at the minimum level.  Students are typically engaged in learning for more than the required five hours per day – anywhere from 5 1/2 to 7 hours in classes, between 1001 to 1274 total hours per year.  With the current minimum being 910 hours, it’s easy to see how schools are exceeding that figure.  It’s also to see why Hayes could have mistakenly believed he was raising the bar for education as he proposed an increase to 1,050.

So here’s where I’m going to do a complete about-face and talk about how this bill can be salvaged and work to improve public education in Ohio.

House Bill 191 demands an increase in state education funding.

Under today’s law, schools are funded by the state for being in session for the minimum number of hours – 910.  The structured per pupil funding amounts are based on the premise that schools are providing an education for the minimum five hours per day, 182 days per year, 910 total school hours.  Schools that try to do more than this?  That’s a problem that is dealt with at the local funding level through locally decided levies, not through any state dollars.  Districts are currently compensated based on the current hours mandated by state law.  A change in that state law to increase the minimum requirements necessitates a comparable increase in state funding.  The state can’t reasonably expect a school district that is following the legal requirements to simply increase their workload by 15% (910 hours to 1,050 hours) without a comparable increase in funding.

Thus here’s the silver lining of House Bill 191 for public education: a 15% increase in state funding to every school district to meet the new required number of hours of instruction.

I’m not sure where that extra $1.3 billion will be coming from, but I’m sure everyone will put it to good use. Does anyone think Cleveland’s mayor or CEO of schools will refuse an extra $54 million per year?

I never thought I would say this, but “Thank you, Representative Bill Hayes, for working against your Governor and your party to find a creative way through HB191 to restore Kasich’s cuts to public school funding in Ohio.”