Ohio Senate Passes Education Department Overhaul
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In a vote split along party lines, the Ohio Senate passed a bill on Wednesday aimed at revamping the state’s education system. The passing of Senate Bill 1, with a vote of 26-7, was accompanied by a sense of urgency from Republican supporters who believe that drastic changes need to be made in order to improve the state’s education leadership.
Senator Andrew Brenner, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee and a Republican from Delaware, commended the members of the State Board of Education for their hard work and good intentions towards the state’s education system. However, he pointed out that the current structure they are operating under is slow and inefficient in navigating through bureaucratic processes.
Opposition from Democrats not only questioned the motivations behind the bill but also expressed concern about the speed at which it was pushed through the chamber. They argued that the true intent of the legislation has not been fully revealed.
Senator Catherine Ingram, a Democrat from Cincinnati and the ranking member of the Senate Education Committee, criticized the focus on underperforming districts, stating that it only exacerbates the larger problem of neglecting disadvantaged students. She expressed fear that the desires of the public and the elected school boards in each district will be ignored if the bill becomes law.
If the GOP-majority House passes SB 1, major changes will be made to the Ohio Department of Education. It will be renamed the Department of Education and Workforce, and a new leadership position will be created under the governor’s cabinet instead of the Ohio State Board of Education. Additionally, two deputy directors will be appointed, one for primary and secondary education and another for workforce development.
The transfer of responsibilities to the new leadership will occur six months after the bill is passed. Key powers of the Ohio State Board of Education, such as hiring a new superintendent of public instruction and dealing with district-level matters, will be reduced.
During the Senate Education Committee hearings, several amendments were made to the bill, mostly by Republican legislators. These amendments changed the implementation date of the proposed law from June 30, 2023, to 90 days after the full passage in the General Assembly. Another amendment adopted allows the superintendent of public instruction to serve as an advisor to the heads of the new department, which was originally a requirement in the bill. A Democratic amendment now requires the Senate Education Committee to hold at least one in-person meeting before approving a director or deputy director for the Department of Education and Workforce.
Scott DiMauro, representing the Ohio Education Association, expressed uncertainty about the true purpose of the bill. He questioned how restructuring the department would address policy decisions and support for educators. DiMauro hopes that changes will be made during the House consideration to ensure that educators and the public have a voice in the process.
After being rejected during the last legislative session, the bill swiftly returned to the Senate. Senate President Matt Huffman pledged to reintroduce it as soon as possible. When asked about the direct impact of SB 1, Huffman stated that it will allow for greater opportunity for reforms and enable more effective problem-solving.
The bill now moves to the House for committee review and consideration.
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