In the last General Assembly, Representatives Hayes and Patmon passed legislation in the House to modify the definition of the minimum school year requirements.  House Bill 191 sought to change from requiring a minimum number of school days to a minimum number of school hours.  When we analyzed the bill’s second iteration last year we discovered that the change to hours actually resulted in an increase in the number of hours required by school districts, possibly requiring an increase in funding to help augment this increase.

Hayes and Patmon are both back in the 130th General Assembly and so is this legislation, now as House Bill 32.

Much of our analysis from last year remains the same, though we’ve edited a few parts in the text below to match the updated numbers in this new version.

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 32 actually requires an increase in the minimum number of hours of academic instruction up to 1,001.  [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.]  Therefore, it can be said that the proposal actually increases the minimum standard for schools by 91 total hours per year.

So why would anyone claim that 4 weeks might be cut from the school year when HB32 seems to have added 91 hours?

In truth, 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 easy to see why Hayes could have mistakenly believed he was raising the bar for education as he proposed an increase to 1,001.

So here’s how this bill can work to improve public education in Ohio.

House Bill 32 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 10% (910 hours to 1,001 hours) without a comparable increase in funding.

Thus here’s the silver lining of House Bill 32 for public education: a necessary 10% increase in state funding to every school district to meet the new required number of hours of instruction.