Legislative Watch – November 6, 2023

As a reminder, tomorrow, Tuesday, November 7, 2023, is Election Day in Ohio. Across the state there are important elections being held for local school district boards of education and/or school bonds and levies. If you have not already voted early in-person or via mail, please make sure you make your plan to vote tomorrow. Polls open tomorrow at 6:30 AM and close at 7:30 PM. To find your polling location, please click here. Additionally, Ohio’s Voter ID rules have changed, to find an updated list of valid forms of identification that you can use to vote, please click here. If you have issues voting or need help voting, you can contact the Ohio Voter Protection Hotline, by calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683). You can also go to https://866ourvote.org/state/ohio/

House Committee Adopts Substitute Bill to Senate Bill 83, the Higher Education “Destruction” Act

Last week, the “dash 11” version of Senate Bill (SB) 83 was accepted in the Ohio House Higher Education Committee. Notably, the substitute bill removes a provision prohibiting faculty and other employees from striking. While this is welcome news, the bill retains language that is anti-labor that prohibits higher education faculty unions from bargaining on evaluations, tenure, and retrenchment policies (see exception below). OEA firmly believes that these policies are best developed locally by faculty and administration determining systems that work best for their campuses.

Below is a summary of other key changes reflected in Substitute Senate Bill 83:

  • Adds an exception to the proposed prohibition against collectively bargaining on retrenchment policies to allow a higher education institution that has a collective bargaining agreement in effect on the bill’s effective date containing a provision on retrenchment to continue to bargain over retrenchment policies for new or renewed agreements for only faculty with between 30-35 years of service in a public retirement system.
  • Provides a broad definition of retrenchment which would make it easier for administrations to terminate academic programs and faculty positions.
  • Reduces the student evaluation portion of an annual faculty evaluation from 50% to 25%.
  • Adds an appeal process for final faculty evaluations.
  • Removes the requirement that institutions must change their mission statements to include certain language, and, instead, requires that language be included into a “statement of commitment.”
  • This language must include a declaration that it is “committed to not requiring, favoring, disfavoring, or prohibiting speech or lawful assembly.”
    Retains the prohibition on mandatory training and programs regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), unless it is required to comply with state and federal laws, professional licensure requirements, or to obtain or retain accreditation.
  • Removes the requirement that the Chancellor of Higher Education approve a request for an exemption from the prohibition on a mandatory DEI program and course.
  • Requires a state institution to provide a written report to the Chancellor summarizing all mandatory DEI programing and training at the state institution.
  • Requires institutions to establish complaint processes for perceived violations of the DEI policies, “intellectual diversity,” and “specified concepts.”
  • Removes references to “sexual orientation”, “gender identity,” or “gender expression” in the sections that require institutions to provide equal opportunity leaving only “race,” “ethnicity,” “religion,” and sex in those sections.
  • Allows community colleges to supply a “general syllabus” to satisfy the public syllabi component of the bill. A “general syllabus” for a course includes requirements for a calendar outlining what materials and topics will be and when they will be covered and a list of any required or recommended readings for the course.
  • Reduces the terms of office for state university board of trustee members from nine to six years. This provision only applies to state universities.
  • Requires a state institution, instead of the Chancellor, to develop a course with no fewer than three credit hours in American history or government.

OEA remains focused on urging the Ohio House of Representatives to reject Substitute Senate Bill 83. Please contact your State Representative to urge them to oppose Substitute SB 83. To look up your State Representative’s contact information, please visit https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/ and type in your address in the search bar under “Who Represents Me?”

REMINDER: NEA Action on Department of Labor Overtime Rules

As a reminder, the U.S. Department of Labor is proposing to expand overtime benefits, which are governed by the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to include earnings up to $55,000, currently, the overtime provision covers workers earning $35,000 and below. This change would impact an estimated 3.6 million workers nationwide, including education support professionals (ESPs) who make below $55,000, to qualify for overtime benefits. However, teachers and faculty are exempted from the current and proposed rules.

This proposed rule has many benefits, but it should also include overtime protections for classroom teachers and faculty! The deadline to comment on the proposed USDOL rule is, tomorrow, Tuesday, November 7, 2023. Click here to tell the Department of Labor that it is unfair to continue excluding dedicated teachers and faculty from overtime pay.

OEA Testifies in Opposition to Bill that would Confuse Educator Professional Standards

On October 17, 2023, OEA Secretary Treasurer Mark Hill delivered opponent testimony on House Bill (HB) 214 before the Ohio House Primary and Secondary Education Committee. HB 214 would cause unnecessary distraction and confusion for educators, students, administrators, and parents by requiring vague and amorphous local censorship guidelines in Ohio’s 600 plus school districts and hundreds of charter schools. To read OEA’s opponent testimony to HB 214 click HERE.

After the hearing, House Primary and Secondary Education Committee Chairman, Representative Adam Bird (R-New Richmond), called an interested party meeting with the bill’s sponsor, Representative Adam Holmes (R-Nashport), Democratic members of the Committee, and representatives of the school administrative groups, to discuss concerns with the bill and propose amendments. This interested party process resulted in the acceptance of a substitute version of HB 214 on October 24, 2023. While the substitute bill made some improvements, OEA remains opposed to the legislation in its current format.

OEA Submits Written Opponent Testimony to School Bus Seat Belt Mandate Bill

On October 31, 2023, OEA President Scott DiMauro provided written opponent testimony on House Bill (HB) 279 to the Ohio House Transportation Committee. HB 279 would require seat belts to be installed on all school buses currently in use and all future school buses purchased. OEA has historically opposed mandatory seat belts in school buses, as buses are designed to be extremely safe without seat belts with the design concept of “compartmentalization.” In many cases, seat belts on school buses can increase the safety risk to students and dangerously limit the ability of school bus drivers to get students out of a bus after an accident.

Included with the written testimony were comments from OEA Education Support Professional (ESP) members expressing their concerns over the proposed legislation. OEA thanks Barb Armour and Jennifer Hein from Brunswick Educational Support Professionals Association, Stephanie Griffieth from Northeastern Local Association of School Employees (Clark County), and Margie Stevens from Lancaster School Support Association, for providing comments to support OEA’s opposition testimony on HB 279. To read a copy of OEA’s HB 279 opponent testimony and ESP member comments, click HERE.

For an archive of past Legislative Watch releases, visit the Legislative Watch archive.