Legislative Watch – December 16, 2022

HJR 6 Does Not Advance in Lame Duck

A proposal that would weaken the voice of Ohio voters by making it much more difficult to pass citizen-led constitutional amendments failed to advance in lame duck session. House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR 6) was a proposed constitutional amendment that if passed would require 60% of the vote in order to pass future constitutional amendments. 
 
OEA is among a broad coalition of groups that have signed on in strong opposition to this proposal. The coalition held a Statehouse rally and press event on Tuesday, December 13, 2022. The message to the legislature was that HJR 6 is unfair, undemocratic, unpopular, and would hurt Ohio’s voters. 
 
HJR 6 was voted out of the House Government Oversight Committee on a party line vote. However, the resolution was never scheduled for a vote on the House floor as it did not have the votes needed for passage. It is likely that a new version of the proposal will be introduced when the legislature begins its next session in January. 

Anti-Honesty in Education Censorship Bills Fail to Pass in 134th Ohio General Assembly 

OEA member advocacy and work with coalition partners has stopped the passage of harmful censorship bills that would have targeted educators for teaching honesty in education. Despite a two-year sustained effort by anti-honesty in education legislators and anti-public education groups such as the Center for Christian Virtue (CCV), OEA and its allies stopped numerous bills seeking to attack educators and students. Harmful proposals that never made it out of committee include several bills that would have implemented severe anti-honesty in education censorship with harsh penalties for educators (HB 322, HB 327, HB 616), along with legislation that would have required constant posting of classroom instructional materials on school district websites (HB 529) for review by curriculum critics. While it is possible these anti-honesty in education attacks could reappear in the next Ohio General Assembly (135th 2023-2024), OEA remains prepared to provide strong opposition to these types of attacks. 

Efforts to Gut State Board of Education Fails on House Floor

A proposal to drastically reduce the powers and duties of the State Board of Education fell short of passage in the final hours of the legislative session. Senate Bill 178 would have moved most of the oversight of education in Ohio away from the State Board of Education and into a newly created cabinet-level department under the Governor. The bill passed the Senate last week and had three hearings in the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee. 
 
Rather than passing the bill out of committee, the Senate amended a separate bill (HB 151) to include the proposal. However, when HB 151 came to the House for a vote to concur with Senate amendments, the vote fell short of the 50 votes needed for passage.  
 
OEA testified in the House in opposition to SB 178. OEA Vice President Jeff Wensing stated that the substance of the bill left many unanswered questions and that such a drastic change should not be rushed through in the waning days of session.
 
It is likely that a similar proposal will be considered next year. OEA believes it is worth taking a hard look at how Ohio’s schools are governed and supported at the state level. However, collaboration is key. Collaboration was sorely lacking in the rushed process of the last few weeks. Stakeholders need to be at the table. The voices of Ohio’s educators need to be heard, valued, and central to any change. That is how we will get the best results for Ohio’s students. 

Ohio General Assembly Approves Spending Bill

Earlier this week, the Ohio General Assembly approved House Bill 45, a tax amnesty measure, that was amended to include over $6 billion in spending on various programs.  The majority of the funds appropriated are federal pandemic relief funds.   

OEA is pleased with the increase in the phase-in percentage, to 33%, for the Disadvantaged Pupil Impact Aid (DPIA) component of the Fair School Funding model.  This results in approximately $56 million in additional support in FY 2023 for school districts to better meet the needs of economically disadvantaged students.
 
The major education related provisions of the bill are listed below. 

  • $1.75 billion in Federal Coronavirus School Relief funds.  
  • Increases the phase-in percentage for disadvantaged pupil impact aid from 14% to 33.33%, resulting in an increase in State General Revenue Fund support of approximately $56 million for FY 2023.  
  • $112 million in federal funds to be used by the Facilities Construction Commission to award competitive grants of up to $100,000 per school buildings for security and safety enhancements.  
  • Makes the following changes to the Afterschool Child Enrichment (ACE) Educational Savings Account Program (this was one of Senate President Huffman’s lame duck priorities):  
    • Extends the ACE Program through FY 2024;  
    • Increases the amount of the account from $500 to $1,000 in FY 2023 and FY 2024;  
    • Increases the family income eligibility from at or below 300% of the federal poverty level to at or below 400% of the family’s adjusted gross income;  
    • Qualifies a student whose resident district ranked in the top 10% of the school districts according to the chronic absenteeism rate in the most recent school year;  
    • Qualifies a student whose resident district operates one or more school buildings designated as low performing under EdChoice; and  
    • Qualifies students in the Cleveland Municipal School District.    
  • Revises how the number of miles driven for school bus service are factored into the calculation of school district transportation payments. 
  • Allows a school district, community school, or chartered nonpublic school to conduct a raffle to raise money for the school district or school.

The bill is pending signature by Governor DeWine. 

HB 554 – Expired Educator Licenses Can Be Immediately Renewed for At Least Two Years 

The Ohio General Assembly approved House Bill 554 this week, a bi-partisan bill co-sponsored by Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond) and Rep. Mary Lightfoot (D-Westerville). HB 554 allows individuals with expired educator licenses to immediately receive a two-year temporary educator license from the State Board of Education. The two-year temporary license can be renewed into a 5-year professional educator license if the individual completes either 18 continuing education units (180 contact hours) or 6 semester hours of coursework in the area of licensure, or in an area related to the teaching field, during the period of the two-year temporary license. The Governor is expected to sign the bill, which will become effective 90 days after his signature. 

A variety of unrelated amendments were added to the bill before passage, including:  

  • A provision that includes all children identified as “developmentally delayed” into Category 2 of the special education funding formula (which will increase funding), which currently is limited to preschool children with developmental delays. 
  • Expands the definition of a “child with a disability” to include children ages three through nine who are experiencing a developmental delay, rather than the current law which defines developmentally delayed children ages three through five. 
  • Requires that children attending preschool as of the bill’s effective date who are identified as having a developmental delay and turn six years old on or before June 30, 2023, be permitted to remain in preschool and continue to be identified as having a developmental delay through June 30, 2023. 
  • Permits state universities to develop policies regarding the use of the university’s logos by student organizations. 
  • Requires any secondary school or college that participates in the College Credit Plus (CCP) program to permit children of military families enrolled in CCP who must withdraw due to their parents stationing orders the option to complete the coursework remotely or withdraw without academic or financial penalty. 
  • Removes registered behavior technicians and certified behavioral analysts who are under supervision or in training status from the list of individuals who may provide intervention services under the Autism Scholarship Program. 
  • Requires the Department of Education to prescribe standards to allow transfer students to use their pretransfer state assessment scores to meet the high school graduation requirements at their new school. 

Legislature Passes Bill that Limits Voting Rights

In the final days of session, the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill that made numerous changes to Ohio elections. House Bill 458 was originally drafted to eliminate August special elections in most cases. The bill was amended in the Senate to include a strict photo ID requirement for voters, and a shorter deadline to return absentee ballots by mail, among other changes. The bill passed the Senate 24-7 and the House voted to concur with Senate amendments by a vote of 55-32. 
 
OEA opposed the bill. Legislative policies adopted by OEA members state opposition to a strict voter ID law as this can limit the ability of voters without a driver’s license (such as students, the elderly, and the disabled) to exercise their right to vote. Additionally, OEA legislative policies oppose elimination of the August special election as it limits the ability of local school districts to seek levies in order to meet community needs. Further, the bill reduces the time for absentee ballots sent before election day to be received by the board of elections from ten days to four. This will lead to some voters, including members of the military serving overseas, having their votes not counted due to slowed mail delivery. 

Bill to Repeal Retention Under the TGRG Not Enacted

House Bill 497, sponsored by Representatives Gayle Manning (R- North Ridgeville) and Phil Robinson (D- Solon), was not brought up for a vote in the Ohio Senate. The bill called for elimination of mandatory retention under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee and a reduction in state testing. The bill passed the House in June with broad, bipartisan support (82-10). Further, the State Board of Education recently voted 18-1 in favor of a resolution urging passage of the bill. Despite this, the bill received two hearings in the Senate but was not brought up for a vote. 

OEA strongly supports this proposed bill. Educators know that basing high-stakes decisions on standardized test scores is not in the best interests of students. OEA will continue to advocate for this important measure in the next General Assembly.

HB 509 – School Psychologist Licenses Moved from ODE to State Board of Psychology 

House Bill 509 (Occupational Licenses) was amended prior to passage this week to create a new school psychologist license granted by the State Board of Psychology, specifically for practice in school settings. The State Board of Psychology will continue to issue a school psychologist license for practice outside of school settings. The school psychologist license issues by the State Board of Education will be phased out. The bill requires the State Board of Education and State Board of Psychology to coordinate implementation of the changes described above not later than January 1, 2025.