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Education

Ohio lawmakers approve sweeping education bill

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    The Ohio Statehouse.

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    State Sen. Matt Huffman

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    State Rep. Teresa Fedor.

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    State Rep. Theresa Gavarone.

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    State Rep. Michael Ashford.

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Ohio lawmakers approved a deregulation bill to make sweeping changes to the state’s educational landscape.

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The Ohio Statehouse.

The Columbus Dispatch Enlarge

The House voted 60-33 last month to give final approval to Senate Bill 216, which would revise the teacher evaluation system, allow third-graders to take state tests on paper — deviating from the electronic format — and ease restrictions on enrollment and teacher certification, among other changes. Gov. John Kasich has yet to sign the bill into law.

Sen. Matt Huffman (R., Lima) said he wanted to create a comprehensive bill that addresses several issues within the state’s educational process after meeting with superintendents in his congressional district.

“Instead of fighting little battles legislatively each time, we thought it would be best to put it all in one bill,” he said.

The bill created additional protections for school districts and community schools for enrolling students from the recently shuttered Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow.

Current law states that any charter school considered failing for two out of three years could be closed by the Department of Education. The bill states that any community school whose enrollment has expanded by more than 10 percent because of displaced ECOT students will be exempt from closure through the 2019-20 school year.

ECOT closed in January, leaving nearly 12,000 students scrambling, after its Toledo-based sponsor, the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, revoked its sponsorship.

The bill will also give schools more flexibility in responding to staffing needs. Educators will now be licensed to teach pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, fourth through ninth, or grades seven through 12. Currently, educators are licensed to teach pre-kindergarten through third grade, grades four through nine, and seventh through 12th grade.

“This will give schools the option to put the best teacher in front of students,” Mr. Huffman said.

State Rep. Theresa Gavarone (R., Bowling Green) said before voting in favor of the bill that she had one question: "What can we do to improve education in Ohio?"

"Updating the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System is a priority of mine and provisions to increase oversight of e-schools and create a study committee to examine funding of those schools are just a couple of the many ways this legislation answered that question," she said.

The bill passed nearly unanimously in the Senate with Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) the only dissenting vote.

And despite passing the House, the legislation received zero Democratic votes.

In expressing their opposition to the legislation, both Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo) and Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo) said this legislation fails to regulate and provide consequences to online charter schools for misusing money.

“This bill is designed to give Republican candidates political cover in an election year after they covered up fraud and profited off money meant for our children’s education," Ms. Fedor said. "As families and taxpayers are tuned in to the state’s biggest scandal in history, we will continue to watch what they do, not what they say, when it comes to finally holding failing charter schools accountable.”

Other sections of Senate Bill 216 include:

Nonteaching employee contracts

Nonteaching school employees who are newly hired must be employed between six and seven years — rather than between two and three years — before receiving tenure.

Retesting teachers — repealed

Public teachers of core subject areas are no longer required to take exams to prove their knowledge of the subject.

Reading improvement plans

Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, school districts, charter schools, or STEM schools where less than 80 percent of students received proficient scores on the third-grade ELA assessment must establish a reading improvement plan supported by reading specialists.

Teacher evaluation system

Eliminates a requirement that 50 percent of an evaluation consist of value-added student data and replaces it with at least two measures of “high-quality student data.”

Contact Javonte Anderson at janderson@theblade.com419-724-6065, or on Twitter @JavonteA.

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