On June 30th of this year, Ohio’s governor signed House Bill 59. Many of the non-financial provisions of HB 59 became effective on September 29th, which effectively signaled the beginning of major changes to how public schools operate in the state. A few of the more significant legislative mandates include expanded participation for extracurricular activities, changes to terms and eligibility for joint vocational school district board of education members, new reporting requirements for schools, and modification to the definition of minimum school year.

Chief amongst the changes that took effect this week include two new statues that expand student participation in extracurricular activities for home school and nonpublic school students. Pursuant to the new laws, a district of residence must now allow home school students to participate in extracurricular activities as long as the student 1) meets age and grade requirements as determined by the superintendent, 2) is able to comply with all nonacademic and financial requirements, and 3) can establish academic eligibility which is specifically delineated in the statute. A related law provides similar participation rights to nonpublic school students as well, with the addition that a student’s nonpublic school cannot offer the same activity. School districts will have the discretion to allow home school or nonpublic school students who do not reside in a district’s boundaries to participate as well, although that participation is subject to several additional restrictions. Both statutes prohibit school districts or any oversight organizations such as OHSAA from placing more stringent participation requirements on home school and nonpublic school students than are specified by law.

Significant changes were also made to JVSD board membership terms and eligibility. After the effective date of the bill, new members will serve a term of three years for up to two consecutive terms. Terms are considered consecutive unless separated by three or more years. Current members of a JVSD board may serve until the expiration of their current terms, after which future members will be appointed pursuant to the new rules. In addition, not less than three-fifths (3/5) of the members of the board shall reside in or be employed within the territory of the JVSD. The manner of appointment and total number of members appointed to a JVSD Board will be based on the terms of the most recent plan for the JVSD on file with ODE.

Board membership selection shall be based on diversity of employers from the geographical region of the state in which the territory of the JVSD is located. All members of the JVSD board must have experience as one of the following: a chief financial officer, a chief executive officer, a human resource manager, or another business, industry, or career counseling professional qualified to discuss the labor needs in respect to the regional economy. The appointing board must appoint individuals who represent employers in the region served by the JVSD who are qualified to consider the state’s workforce needs with an understanding of the skills, training, and education needed for current and future employment opportunities in the state. The appointing board may give preference to individuals who have served as members on a joint vocational school business advisory committee who also meet the qualifications listed above.

Drafters of the Budget Bill placed renewed focus on accountability as well. Financial reports are now required at both the district and building level (not either/or), and districts must now report information on total revenue and expenditures, per pupil revenue, and expenditures for both classroom and nonclassroom purposes both in aggregate and by targeted subgroups.

Targeted subgroups delineated by HB 59 include the following: students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, limited English proficient students, and gifted students. If a district does not meet ODE’s requirement of satisfactory achievement and progress for a subgroup, the district must submit an improvement plan to ODE, and ODE is permitted to require that the plan include partnering with another entity for services to that subgroup. The State Board of Education must establish measures of satisfactory achievement and progress no later than December 31, 2014. ODE must use the measures established by the State Board to determine if a district or school has made satisfactory achievement and progress for certain subgroups by September 1, 2015, and annually thereafter. ODE is also required to publish a list of schools, districts, and providers that have demonstrated an ability to serve each subgroup of students.

Finally, effective beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, calculation of the minimum school year will change from “days” to “hours.” At a minimum, schools must provide 455 hours of instruction for half day kindergarten, 910 hours of instruction for all day kindergarten, as well as for grades first through sixth, and 1,001 hours of instruction for seventh through twelfth grades. “Hours of operation” include time spent during scheduled classes, supervised activities, and approved education options, but exclude lunch and breakfast periods as well as extracurriculars. Hours may also include one or more of the following: 1) equivalent of two days per year for parent-teacher conferences; 2) equivalent of two days per year for professional development of teachers; and 3) morning and afternoon recess for grades K-6 not to exceed fifteen minutes in duration per period. In conjunction with changes to minimum school year, schools will no longer receive an allotted number of calamity days, and can no longer include late arrival or early release time towards the minimum hour count.

With regard to school calendars, a board must hold a public hearing no later than thirty (30) days prior to adoption of a calendar to address at a minimum the following: the total number of hours in the school year, the length of the school day, and the beginning and end dates of instruction. In addition, the board must formally adopt a resolution before it can reduce the number of hours of operation in any school year from that which was offered the previous school year. Further, the board cannot reduce the hours below statutory minimums. The board must also consider the compatibility of any change to hours with the needs of any joint vocational school district that serves the district’s high school students, as well as any community school to which the board is required to provide transportation. Finally, the board must consult with any chartered nonpublic school for which the board provides transportation as well.

To review the budget bill in its entirety, please click here. We encourage you to contact your district’s legal team if you have questions about how any provisions of the budget bill will impact you.