On April 13th, 2015, the State Board of Education voted to amend a rule which previously mandated that school districts employ a minimum number of elementary art, music and physical education teachers, as well as a minimum number of nurses, library media specialists, social workers and visiting teachers. The standard was commonly referred to as the “5 of 8 rule,” and was originally adopted in 1983. The rule specifically required schools to have at least five of the eight positions mentioned above for every 1,000 enrolled students.

Members of the State Board had considered elimination of the rule for a number of years before passing a resolution on December 9th to formally reconsider it. The State Board conducted a public hearing before it voted on April 13th to officially amend the rule. On that day, the State Board rejected a proposal to refer the rule back to committee for further review before passing the final resolution to amend.

The new rule adopted by the State Board provides school districts with much more discretion to determine what the appropriate number of these positions may be. The rule, codified in OAC 3301-35-03, as amended states “[t]he local board of education shall be responsible for the scope and type of educational services in the district. The district shall employ educational service personnel to enhance the learning opportunities of all students. Educational service personnel assigned to elementary fine arts, music and physical education shall hold the special teaching certificate or multi-age license in the subject to which they are assigned.”

Opponents of the rule change argued that schools may use the new rule to eliminate important programs such as art and music, especially in lower income districts with high numbers of poor and minority students. However, many districts and proponents view the change as an opportunity to provide school administrators with more autonomy and control over staffing and programming. School administrators believe that they can more effectively tailor the programs to the unique needs of a particular school through the new rule.

The amended rule became effective on April 24th, 2015. You may view copies of both the new and old versions of OAC 3301-35-03 at http://www.registerofohio.state.oh.us.