The Cleveland Schools “education reform” plan seems to have stalled in the House Education Committee and now seems highly unlikely to make it to the Senate before the Memorial Day weekend, after which the legislators have been rumored to be planning on staying home for their summer break.  In fact, the current schedule for the Ohio House has no full sessions on their schedule.  And yet the plan, known as House Bill 525 in the legislation, is heading toward its seventh hearing in the House committee with no vote imminent (though it is labeled as “possible”) and no additional committee meetings scheduled at the present time.

House Education Committee Chairman Gerald Stebelton’s office told us tonight that they expect a vote on SB316, Governor Kasich’s reform plan, but that HB525 was only scheduled for another hearing.  That was a bit of a surprise as we figured that the reason the committee moved their meeting from 1:00 pm up to 9:30 am was to be able to rush HB525 to a hurried, but unlikely,  finish in the Senate on Thursday.  To do so would have already required some maneuvering and serious patience by the rest of the Senate leading into the holiday weekend.

Let’s take a look at the current meeting times for this week’s Education committees and full sessions.

The yellow rows identify the likely/possible path of HB525 if it follows a normal progression.  Today, the plan was discussed in the Education committee, but instead of being voted on, it was carried over to Wednesday morning.  Even without this unexpected carryover, the soonest the bill would have gone to the House floor for a vote would have been the 1:30 session on Wednesday.  With that meeting occurring at the exact same time as the Senate session, and with the Senate Education committee also meeting at 9:3o am (same as the House Education committee) HB525 wouldn’t see the light of day in the Senate until Thursday at the earliest.

Unless, that is, co-sponsor of the Senate’s version of the bill, and Senate Education Committee chair Peggy Lehner went aheas and scheduled an “informal” hearing on the bill (see below).  Perhaps they’ll just sit in on the House Education Committee meeting and hear the discussion there.

And if the scheduling of an informal hearing wasn’t optimistic enough, Senator Lehner has already scheduled the bill for discussion by the committee on Thursday, an event that would now appear to be impossible unless the House Education Committee Chair is somehow persuaded to change his mind to accommodate the Senate Education Chair.

Follow that so far?

But even MORE interesting is this — even if the House Education Committee passes the bill, and if they suspend the rules to vote on HB525 on the House floor tomorrow afternoon, and if the bill IS handed off to the Senate Education Committee the very next morning for its first hearing, the Senate Education Committee STILL appears to be too late to get it passed without help as the committee doesn’t meet until AFTER the Full Senate convenes (11:30 vs. 11:00).  Thus, Senator Lehner would have to convince the Senate to recess long enough for the Education Committee to meet and discuss the bill thoroughly enough to take a vote (while considering any amendments), then rush the adopted legislation back to a reconvened Senate session for consideration on the floor.

Seem unlikely?  We think it’s actually very possible, but this bill’s future ultimately rests in the hands of Representative Stebelton in the House.  Here’s why:

First, Stebelton could hold up the bill in his committee, preventing it from reaching the Senate this week.  We have no indication as to why this would occur, but this actually seems to be where this bill is headed based on the information from the Chairman’s office about no vote happening in the committee tomorrow.

Second, Stebelton could decide to introduce and/or adopt changes to the legislation that would be unacceptable to the Senate Education committee members and co-sponsors of the Senate version of the plan, Peggy Lehner and Nina Turner.  In this messy scenario, the Senate would either be forced to accept the untenable revisions and pass the bill or reverse the amendments and pass a different version.  In that case, the new bill would have to be accepted by the House (heading to summer break) or to a conference committee (still relying on House involvement).

Third, Stebelton could pass the bill as written tomorrow morning, gift-wrapping it for Senators Lehner and Turner to fast-track it out of their committee, enabling them to pull off the Senate-recess scenario.  This House-version could then be adopted as is by the Senate on Thursday afternoon and be headed to Governor Kasich for a Memorial Day celebration (remember, he literally begged for this plan to be adopted).

And in that third scenario there would be nothing to interfere with this plan.

Well, except for the creator of the bill, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, who has been the puppeteer behind these legislators for the past few months, wielding an interesting level of authority over members of the General Assembly.  This weekend, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Mayor Jackson was still thinking about making more changes to this bill.

So perhaps Representative Stebelton is taking this opportunity to remind Jackson that a mayor doesn’t run either the state of Ohio nor the House of Representatives.  And the next time Jackson can’t run his district and wants the General Assembly to do what he is unable to he should invite the House Education Committee Chair to the party.