The Ohio House Education Committee reconvened last evening with the introduction of the latest version (sub bill) of an education reform bill from Governor Kasich’s office, House Bill 555. The bill was introduced by Committee Chair, Gerald Stebelton who, as sponsor and chair, had to step down to the podium and turn his seat over to Mike Dovilla.
Sub House Bill 555 primarily focuses on revising the method for grading schools and districts, but when Stebelton completed his prepared remarks, committee members from both parties launched into a series of questions about a piece of the legislation not as well known – the elimination of the “Ohio Accountability Task Force” established in Ohio Revised Code 3302.021.
Currently, the law dictates that the task force consist of the thirteen members, with guarantees that both major political parties are represented. Additionally, the majority of voting members having significant experience, expertise, and a personal stake in the education profession (in bold):
- The chairpersons and ranking minority members of the house of representatives and senate standing committees primarily responsible for education legislation, who shall be nonvoting members;
- One representative of the governor’s office, appointed by the governor;
- The superintendent of public instruction, or the superintendent’s designee;
- One representative of teacher employee organizations … appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives;
- One representative of school district boards of education, appointed by the president of the senate;
- One school district superintendent, appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives;
- One representative of business, appointed by the president of the senate;
- One representative of a nonprofit organization led by the Ohio business community, appointed by the governor;
- One school building principal, appointed by the president of the senate;
- A member of the state board of education, appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives.
House Bill 555 seeks to remove any guarantee of bipartisan participation and educational expertise from this committee whose primary purpose will be to evaluate and adopt recommendations for improving the building and district accountability system established through the changes proposed within this very same bill. As this bill comes straight out of the Governor’s office (Stebelton’s made this point multiple times while testifying last night), they can’t afford to have experienced educators, members of teacher unions, or even (GASP) members from the opposition party potentially having input about revising this law in the future, can they?
Therefore, Kasich’s version of HB 555 has eliminated the guaranteed involvement of those populations and instead tipped the process of school and district accountability heavily toward a single party — the Republican Party in this case. The new “Ohio Accountability Advisory Committee” would be constructed as follows:
- The chairpersons of the house of representatives and senate standing committees primarily responsible for education legislation, who shall be nonvoting members;
- The superintendent of public instruction, or the superintendent’s designee, who shall be a nonvoting member;
- Three members of the public, appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives;
- Three members of the public, appointed by the president of the senate;
- Two members of the public, appointed by the governor;
- One member of the public, appointed by the auditor of state [currently Dave Yost, whose office is collaborating with the Dispatch on the state attendance investigation].
When it’s all said and done, HB555 removes the ranking minority members from both the House and Senate, and eliminates 5 of the 6 seats reserved for professional educators. Additionally, the lone remaining educator, the state superintendent, loses all voting privileges.
So when this passes, instead of group comprised of carefully crafted group of educators, legislators, and business leaders, we will have a Republican education committee of 9 random public voting members hand-selected by the:
- Republican Auditor of State
- Republican Speaker of the House
- Republican Senate President
- Republican Governor John Kasich
And how did the Republican HB 555 sponsor Gerald Stebelton respond to the committee’s question about the lack of education expertise and bipartisan involvement?
Well, there might be a teacher on the committee – maybe a retired teacher. And there’s nothing that says they can’t select someone from the opposite party.
To be clear, we are NOT advocating that you hold your breath.
Contact your State Representative today and tell them to remove the changes to the Ohio Accountability Task Force from House Bill 555.
This bill will be voted on before the end of November.