Legislative Watch – November 20, 2023

OEA Testifies on Academic Intervention Legislation

On Tuesday, November 14, 2023, OEA offered interested party testimony on Senate Bill 162. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Andy Brenner (R- Delaware), would require school districts to provide academic intervention services to students who score “limited” on state assessments in math, English language arts, or both. These intervention services must be offered free of cost to the student and must not supplant the student’s core academic instructional time. The bill establishes that intervention services can be offered directly through the school, through a vendor, or a combination of both. The services can range from tutoring, additional instructional time, an extended school calendar, or other programs.

While supporting the intent of the legislation, OEA’s testimony raised several concerns about the bill. One concern is that the bill as introduced relied solely on a single test on a single day to identify students in need of intervention services. Educators have far more information about a student’s knowledge and capabilities than a single test score. During the hearing, a substitute bill was adopted that included language that allows schools to exempt students if they receive a grade of “C” or higher in the course and have scored at or above grade level on the last two diagnostic tests in the subject. This language was based on OEA’s recommendation.

A remaining concern about the legislation is that it does not apply to private schools that accept vouchers. OEA believes that students who attend private schools with tuition paid for by Ohio taxpayers should take the same tests as their public-school counterparts and the private schools should be held to the same requirements under the bill. Additional hearings on the bill and a potential committee vote are expected in December.

Senate Passes Bill Placing Insurance Limits on Dental Care

On Wednesday, November 15, 2023, the Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 115. The bill would prohibit dental insurance companies from having a contractual requirement with providers that limit charges for non-covered dental services. OEA opposes this bill as it will result in higher costs for members and their families. SB 115 passed with a vote of 22-8 and will now progress to the Ohio House for committee hearings and further consideration.

HB 214 – Legislation Requiring Local Professional Conduct

The Ohio House of Representatives passed HB 214 by a vote of 64-30 on November 15, 2023. The bill requires school districts, charter schools, and STEM schools to adopt a policy against using statements of commitment to or soliciting or requiring specified individuals to affirmatively ascribe to, specific beliefs, affiliations, ideals, or principles concerning political movements, or ideology.

OEA opposes HB 214 because it risks creating a state mandated political censorship maze across Ohio’s 600-plus school districts and charter schools is in no one’s interest, least of all students. Further, the OEA believes that professional conduct guidance for educators is better addressed through the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators, which is developed by the Educator Standards Board and adopted by the State Board of Education, the professional licensing board for educators in Ohio.

Before the Ohio House voted on the bill, Rep. Sean Brennan (D-Parma) offered an amendment on the floor that would have required each local policy adopted under this division to comply with the licensure code of professional conduct. The House voted 62-32 not to consider the amendment. Joining Democrats voting to consider the amendment were two Republicans, Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Andrea White (R-Kettering). HB 214 was subsequently passed by a vote of 64-30, with Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) joining Democrats in voting ‘No.’

SB 168 – Ohio Senate Considers Wide-ranging “Deregulation” Proposals

OEA provided opponent testimony on SB 168 in the Ohio Senate Primary & Secondary Committee on November 14, 2023. The bill proposes wide-ranging regulatory statutory changes that intend to provide “regulatory flexibility” to schools and districts across the state. These changes would impact standards for hiring educators, teacher evaluations, professional development, dyslexia intervention training, nonteaching staff reductions, as well as eliminate numerous statutes the legislations deems “obsolete.”

Many of the changes contained in the bill would undermine the ability for Ohio’s students to have access to high-quality student services. To the extent some of the bill’s proposals seek to address educator shortages, OEA recommends avoiding approaches that lower hiring and licensure standards. OEA stands ready to work on comprehensive policies to address the root causes of education staff shortages (e.g. see OEA’s Educator Voice Academy recommendations on Teacher and Education Support Professional Recruitment and Retention) in ways that strengthen and support the education profession.

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