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Ohio School Board Opposes Education Consolidation Bill

Ohio School Board Opposes Education Consolidation Bill
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Members of the Ohio Board of Education have approved a resolution speaking out against a bill being considered in the General Assembly.

House Bill 512, which has the backing of Gov. John Kasich, would consolidate the state’s Departments of Education and Higher Education with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Training.

By an 11-4 vote, the board approved a resolution that says it strongly opposes the measure.

“As members of this board we must exhibit leadership,” board member Nick Owens, who was the resolution’s lead sponsor, said.

Owens argued the board needed to make its position clear on a bill that is moving quickly through the legislative process.

But Chair of the House Education and Career Readiness Committee Andrew Brenner, who serves as an ex-officio member of the board, told members the vote was premature.

“If you vote on this today, it ends discussion, it ends debate on where you stand on the oversight of education,” Brenner said.

The bill could through major changes before its put to a final vote, Brenner added.

But several members of the board disagreed with Brenner’s recommendation and pushed the resolution forward.

“Being an appointed board member, I want to make it clear that I have not been contacted by anyone in the General Assembly or the Governor’s Office about this bill,” Laura Kohler said during the discussion. “I do not believe House Bill 512 is supportive of [my] definition of education.”

Board member Lisa Woods said she believed the bill has inadvertently brought together both Republican and Democratic, conservative and liberal members of the board and the community in opposition.

Both the Ohio Education Association (OEA) and the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) released statements in opposition to the bill Wednesday.

Speaking to the Board of Education, OEA Vice President Scott DiMauro said even though the bill’s intent is to consolidate to improve collaboration between the agencies, but K-12 officials have to collaborate with more than just higher education and workforce development.

DiMauro said they also have to work with local districts, the state Medicaid office, mental healthcare and addiction specialists and many more.

In a written statement, OFT President Melissa Cropper said the bill overlooks all of the other pieces that go into giving a child a well-rounded education.

“Legislators wrote this bill with no input from educators, so we rightly fear the proposed governance structure would exclude input from educators, parents and students,” Cropper said.

The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee is currently holding hearings on HB 512.

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