The Senate Education Committee has announced a fourth hearing on Senate Bill 216 to be held on Wednesday, December 13, at 9:45 a.m. in the North Hearing Room of the Senate Building in Columbus. The time of the meeting has been changed to allow for a longer meeting, as a large volume of testimony is expected. A number of school superintendents have provided testimony at previous hearings. It is rumored that the Education Committee Chair, Sen. Peggy Lehner, is opposed to at least some of the bill provisions. If the bill is not referred out of the Senate Education Committee before their December break, there might be closed, interested party meetings (instead of open hearings in committee) into January.
How to Provide Testimony
Anyone who is interested in providing testimony for next week’s hearing, whether oral or written or both, may do so by completing and sending an Education Witness Slip and written testimony to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 24 hours prior to the committee hearing. The committee is anticipating a large volume of testimony, so requests will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. Oral testimony will be limited to 5 minutes (2–3 pages written).
The first hearing was held on October 18. The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Matt Huffman, introduced the bill to the Education Committee. He noted that burdensome paperwork and tedious tasks distract teachers and superintendents from their primary role of educating students. Sen. Lehner said that although a number of things may be cumbersome, there may be valid reasons to keep them, such as the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA).
At the second hearing on November 8, several superintendents and other supporters of the bill provided testimony that the proposed changes will remove “unnecessary burdens” that draw attention away from teaching and learning. School leaders and teachers argued that they can more effectively educate students without the overwhelming number of regulations that dictate how schools should be run. Specific provisions supported:
- College Credit Plus – specifically, the cost of textbooks
- Teacher licensure – narrow grade bands make it difficult to fill substitute and regular positions
- Testing changes
The third hearing, on December 6, was for opponent and interested party testimony. At this hearing, State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria called the bill “a step backward” and “a reactive approach.” He testified as an interested party, noting that he had considered each provision of the bill and whether it would benefit students. He opposed many of the changes in the bill, including the following:
- Eliminating the KRA
- College Credit Plus and requiring ODE to study the effectiveness of CCP
- Changes to substitute teacher licensure
- Eliminating number of excused absences from “excessive absences”
- Eliminating the student growth measure from OTES
- Changes to grade bands for licensure
In all, 13 individuals provided testimony at the third hearing, mainly in opposition to removing the KRA and the licensure grade band changes. Several others were prepared to provide testimony, but because of the length of the meeting, they were asked to come back for the fourth hearing.
Overview of SB 216
For an overview of SB 216, introduced on October 10 by Ohio Sen. Matt Huffman, refer to our previous blog post, Unboxing the Education Deregulation Bill: What’s Inside SB 216.