While rejecting Senate modifications to a bill that would have barred transgender adolescents from participating in sports based on their gender identification, the Ohio House also failed to approve more than a thousand pages of state education overhauls thrown in at the last minute.
At 2 a.m. on Thursday, after a full day of debate, the House voted down House Bill 151, which included language from Senate Bill 178. We are still implementing our new educational system.
Senate President Matt Huffman promised to bring the bill back next year with a General Assembly that will have an even more substantial GOP supermajority if lawmakers decline to go further in the current General Assembly.
The education reform portion of the bill, which passed the Senate last week and entered the House this week as a standalone measure, would have merged the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Workforce.
The responsibilities of the state Board of Education would have been reduced to the selection of the state superintendent and the review of complaints against teachers and school administrators.
State Representative Don Jones said, “The system is not working. It does not prioritize our pupils.”
The measure proposed moving the department and many of the responsibilities now held by the state board of education and state superintendent into the governor’s purview.
Due to uncertainties over potential budgetary changes by SB 178 and worries that legislative uncertainty would “pollute” the marketplace of applicants, the State Board of Education delayed contracting a search agency for the next superintendent.
Both proponents of public school education and homeschooling organizations voiced opposition to the bill. During committee hearings, representatives from the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Federation of Teachers testified against the bill.
They disputed claims that the ODE was unresponsive and inaccessible and criticized the speed with which it was moving through the General Assembly. State Sen. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin), the bill’s primary sponsor, said that efforts to reorganize state agencies have been in the works for years and that more immediate action is needed to boost student achievement.
“I’m not looking at increasing an organization; I’m looking at making it more efficient and more fundamentally purposeful,” Reineke said on Tuesday as he defended his bill before the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee.
The committee’s responsibility was to send the standalone bill to the full House for a vote. Still, neither the committee meeting on Tuesday night (which lasted until around 9 p.m.) nor the meeting on Wednesday morning (which recessed before the House’s session began and did not return even after multiple recesses in that body) succeeded in doing so.
At about 9 p.m. on Wednesday, the committee chair, a Republican state representative from North Ridgeville, Gayle Manning, said she was waiting to hear back from the Republican caucus before making any decisions.
After a full day of debate, the Senate chose to take matters into its own hands by amending HB 151, a teacher mentoring measure, to prohibit transgender athletes from participating on teams based on their gender identity.
the Senate attempted to sneak in wording from a bill that would have prohibited COVID-19 vaccine mandates for K-12 kids. After the amendments were made, the Senate voted along party lines to send HB 151 back to the House with a final score of 23-7.
The updated version of the bill requires a birth certificate to confirm a student’s gender
State Representative Don Jones (R-Freeport) initiated the legislation but refused to address the trans athletes’ inclusion in the measure during his Senate floor speech. However, Jones spoke in favor of the bill while it was being debated in the House.
Jones argued that this legislation would protect female students from the presence of biological males in elementary and senior schools. Few Ohio students would be affected by the law, and policies are already in place to ensure equality in youth athletics. Thus LGBTQ advocates, education officials, and the Ohio High School Athletic Association oppose the idea.
Initially, the bill’s wording would have altered the Ohio Teacher Residency Program and teacher mentoring. Democrats strongly urged the House to reject the bill as revised, citing the need for stakeholder input and additional research time.
Democratic Solon state representative Phil Robinson repeated an oppositional claim that the bill’s length prevented it from receiving a thorough assessment by legislators and education experts in Ohio. Changing Ohio’s educational system “is not the way to transform education at 1 or 2 in the morning when no one has read, and no one has seen,” Robinson added.
Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma) criticized the legislation, calling it “changing deck chairs on a sinking ship” because it attempts to fix the symptoms rather than the underlying causes of Ohio’s educational woes.
Democratic Cleveland state representative Juanita Brent expressed concern that the law would discourage conferences from holding events in Ohio and make corporations hesitant to relocate personnel there. She added that sending a message to existing Ohio voters was another reason for passing the law in the middle of the night.
The people of Ohio “who elected us” will “not be seen in this process,” Brent stated.