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Legislative Updates

House Passes Budget

Yesterday the Ohio House passed the budget bill 17-19 with all but two democrats in support. The debate was a considerably short one compared to business as usual because of continued tensions between Speaker Jason Stephens and leadership rival Rep. Derrick Merrin. As a refresher, the start of the year marked one of infighting among republicans, most of whom backed farther right member Merrin for the speakership over Rep. Stephens. Rep. Stephens prevailed in the vote for House speaker only because he secured the support of all Democrats. That continued tension played out yesterday when Speaker Stephens refused to call on republican members in the Merrin camp who wanted to offer amendments to add to the budget things such as the transgender participation in sports ban (Save Women's Sports Act) and expanding school choice. Those bills remain out of the budget. Speaker Merrin allowed a motion to end debate that curtailed conversations and forced the vote.

We continue to struggle to gain support in the legislature for increasing funding to the School Psychology Intern line item. Despite submission of such an amendment by Republican Rep. Andrea White, no changes were made in the House and it remains flat funded at $3 million per year. Because this money is meant to provide a salary for interns at the minimum teacher salary schedule, the line is underfunded and has been for the last six years. The House included an amendment in this budget that would again increase the teacher minimum salary, which means our line will be even more underfunded if it continues to be ignored. I have a meeting with Sen. Andrew Brenner next week and will discuss this with him. I had previously also discussed this with Sen. Teresa Gavarrone. 

I encourage you to flex your advocacy skills and reach out to your representative in the Senate. Be sure to contact the one who represents where you live as well as where you work, in case it's more than one senator. Give their office a call and ask for a conversation so you can explain what it is you do and why we need appropriate financial support for interns to ensure we can graduate more practitioners. Find your senator(s) here:


State Board of Ed Considers New School Psych Praxis

The State Board of Education is in the process of adopting the latest version of the Praxis exam for school psychologists as a requirement for licensure in Ohio. Education Testing Service will retire the current Praxis version 5402 Aug. 31, and institute the new 5403. Because Ohio’s administrative code specifies the version that is accepted, the board must vote to adopt the last iteration.

One member of the board, Diana Fessler, the District 1 elected member from Bellefontaine, told the board that several years ago she had raised questions about certain examinations the board was asked to approve and had been allowed to take the exams to gauge their content. She described the questions as being at an 8th grade level. She therefore declared she would vote against this school psychology licensure exam because she is unable to review the test questions.

District 6 elected board member Antoinette Miranda, a school psychologist, responded to Ms. Fessler’s concerns, saying the test is “directly related to training and it’s directly related to coming out of a school psych program with no experience and what you should know.”

“The people that make up the test with ETS are school psychologists, they’re trainers…. The cut score generally, it’s not too low,” Dr. Miranda said. “This test is directly related to the training that students get.”

Member Fessler said she would still vote against the adoption of the new Praxis based on her own negative experience.

Meryl Johnson, the District 11 member from Cleveland, asked if the 5403 version is more challenging, to which Yenetta Harper, director of ODE’s Office of Educator Effectiveness, said the latest version is aligned to the current standards set by NASP, which is what programs are aligned to.

The board is expected to hold a committee vote in May and then will take up full board consideration in June.

A separate committee of the board voted out the rules associated with the new law to expand the developmental delay identification from ages 3-6 to 3-9, which was passed by the legislature late last year. The rules received no public comments, nor did any board members engage in discussion of the changes. As a result the rules were voted unanimously out of committee. They will head to the full board in May for approval.

During day two of the meeting, the board voted on a resolution offered jointly by bipartisan pair Brendan Shea (District 5-London) and Dr. Christina Collins (District 7-Medina) to discourage the legislature from passing a bill (SB 1) to strip the state board of the majority of its duties and convert ODE into the Department of Workforce and Education led by a governor’s appointee. The bill also demotes the superintendent of public instruction role down to one of board secretary.

The so-titled “Resolution to Preserve Transparency and Public Participation in Ohio K-12 Education” can be found HERE.

And as for the superintendent search, the board again voted to postpone awarding a contract to a search firm to start that process. Meanwhile Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Stephanie Siddens earlier in the week announced she would be accepting the role of assistant superintendent at Upper Arlington City Schools in central Ohio effective in July.

2022 Year-End Legislative Update

For those of you who closely follow state government, it’s time to take a breath. The Ohio Legislature has completed its work for the year and for the biennium and will be away from Columbus until January when we will see new members seated, policy new and old introduced and the biennial budget process begin.

As your OSPA inboxes surely informed you, the legislature was busy during the “lame duck” session that spans the weeks between the election and the end of the year, a time when legislation has its last chance to be completed before being erased from the docket. Bills that impact negatively and positively on school psychologists and children made it to the finish line while others were left incomplete and are forced to start the process over next year.

The most important legislation to pass was HB 509, which was a massive bill making changes to a variety of state licensing boards. In the final steps of the process, Republican senators added language to remove the school psychology license for practice in schools from under the purview of the Department of Education and instead make the State Board of Psychology the licensing board. The bill requires this change to happen by Dec. 31, 2024. This means the license will share a home with the private practice license for school psychology but will retain its own five-year license cycle and will actually reduce CEUs from 180 clock hours down to 50. Lawmakers’ motivation for the change is a desire to streamline and reduce regulations for working in Ohio.

OSPA does not support this change and will now go to the governor’s office to try to get support to return to current law by adding this to the governor’s budget bill. We are at least pleased that an even worse outcome was avoided. HB 509 in November had picked up an amendment that would have wiped the private practice license off the books altogether. In addition to the behind-the-scenes phone calls and meetings I had, we rallied our members to fight back, and I am heartened by the almost 90 people who emailed senators in our initial push, more than 50 who emailed when the bill went to the House for concurrence and all those who called lawmakers. A special recognition is due for Robyn Coleman, Craig Hanthorn, Erin Hull, Rob Kubick, and Jamilah Mogharbel, who stood up and testified before a Senate Committee Nov. 30. We were also supported in the committee room by Doug Cole, Bradley Havelka, Juliana Ramirez, Ann Brennan and Jen Glenn. It really made a difference in reversing the effort to eliminate the license.

On the positive side we are pleased that OSPA’s efforts to change the developmental delay age range were a success. This effort was spearheaded by OSPA Consultant Ann Brennan in her final year of service to OSPA. She worked directly with Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) and his staff to write the bill and garner support from other education associations. Sen. Brenner dropped his own bill (SB 356) to increase the age range from ages 3-6 to 3-9 and then amended it into an omnibus education bill just before the close of the session (HB 554). The legislation is now in front of the governor.

One headline-grabbing bill that failed to see enactment would have stripped both ODE’s superintendent of public instruction and the State Board of Education of most of its duties (SB 178). It instead would have created a cabinet-level leader for the agency to be appointed by the governor. ODE would also be renamed the Department of Education and Workforce or “DEW.” The Ohio Constitution establishes the State Board of Education and gives it the role of hiring and firing the superintendent, so that function, along with licensure duties would have remained with the board under the measure.

This lame duck effort by the Ohio Senate found support – although not unanimous support – on both sides of the legislative aisle and was pushed for by Gov. Mike DeWine. The majority in the House, however, failed to coalesce around the measure. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) promises its return in early 2023.

Republicans argued a number of reasons why the leadership structure at the education department is in need of change. The largest looming issue is the more than year-long absence of a permanent Superintendent of Public Instruction as well as the debacle in the hiring of Steve Dackin to that role last spring - his tenure lasted less than a month before resigning over ethical concerns. Supporters also lamented the state of reading and math achievement scores among Ohio’s children at a time when the state board has become consumed with “culture war” posturing on things such as the anti-Title IX resolution (keep reading below).

Also failing to come to completion was a bill (HB 497) to eliminate the retention requirement under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Despite efforts from many education groups and support from the State Board of Education, the Senate was resistant to the measure. OSPA provided testimony in support of this bill in both the House and Senate. This will likely be reintroduced next year. A big thank you to Jen Glenn who joined me in testifying in the Senate.

Another hot-button measure (HB 151) that did not garner support from both chambers before years’ end was the so-called “Save Women’s Sports Act,” which would have banned participation of transgender students on the sports team for the gender with which they identify. OSPA provided testimony in opposition to this bill. Although it had passed the House, differing opinions among Republicans in the Senate prevented it from coming to completion.

Among the other bills OSPA’s Legislative Committee tracks are:

  • HB 105: Erin’s law, which would require sexual abuse prevention education in schools but now includes a parental opt-out provision and prevents abortion-related organizations from providing educational materials. It was amended into a criminal justice omnibus (SB 288) and passed.
  • HB 322 and HB 327 Critical Race Theory, which would ban teaching of divisive concepts in schools. This bills saw no action in the last six or more months.
  • HB 616 CRT and Don’t Say Gay, this combination legislation was introduced in spring 2022 and had only one hearing.
  • HB 454 Gender-Affirming Care, which would have outlawed gender-affirming care for minors. This bill had an opposition testimony hearing in the lower chamber in November before being left to languish. OSPA provided testimony against the bill. Expect it to reappear next session.
  • HB 722 Parental notification on student health/well being, which implies notification of gender identity/social transitioning. This bill was introduced in September. Expect it to return next session.
  • HB 619 Student Mental Health days, which would allow school districts to permit students to take up to three mental health days away from school each school year. It was introduced in the spring but received only one courtesy hearing in November.

State Board of Education

Meanwhile down the street, the Department of Education is no closer to identifying a new superintendent of public instruction. As a refresher, the State Board of Education conducted a search last year to replace Paolo DeMaria, who stepped down in fall 2021, and hired its own board member Steve Dackin in spring 2022. Dackin had vacated his board seat as the search began to allow himself to be in the running. After less than a month on the job, Dackin resigned amid concerns of a “revolving door” ethics violation. That brings us to December 2022 when the state board was expected to vote to choose a search firm to find candidates for job. Board members voiced hesitation about committing money to a firm given pending legislation that would strip the superintendent job of much of its responsibilities (see above). Instead the panel voted 11-4 to postpone the search firm decision until February.

One thing the State Board of Education did accomplish at its December meeting was a final vote on the “Shea Resolution” that would voice the board’s opposition to federal Title IX language offering protections to transgender students. After four months of testimony on the bill, mostly in opposition, the board voted 10-7, with two abstentions, to approve the resolution. Earlier in the proceedings, members did manage to soften the language by voting 11-7 to remove the first three paragraphs, which contained some divisive language about sex being a “biological fact.” A similar effort to remove a paragraph calling on the superintendent of public instruction to send a letter to all districts about the resolution failed 9-9 to gain necessary majority approval. Some members argued the letter would confuse districts into thinking the resolution has the weight of law while others said the letter is necessary to clear up confusion around Title IX.

Looking into 2023, I will continue to work to garner an increase in the state funding for the internship program. This has been flat funded for several biennia at a level that provides salaries to the interns that fall below the state teacher minimum salary schedule. This funding was always meant to mirror the teacher minimum salary, so I will be working with the governor’s office in early January to try to increase the line item to accommodate that.

Be sure to join the OSPA Legislative Committee to get timely updates on legislation, OSPA advocacy and to see copies of OSPA testimony. Thank you for your membership. It supports all this work!

State Board of Ed Elects New President

The State Board of Education on Tuesday elected Paul LaRue as its president by a vote of 11-7. The DeWine appointee from Washington Court House bested elected Democratic member Christina Collins. His election also brought to a close the presidency of Charlotte McGuire, who was not nominated for the post.

The board also voted to reappoint Martha Manchester as board vice president. Also put up for role were Dr. Collins, who came in second, and member Brendan Shea. Mr. Shea in his bid for the role notably highlighted the attempted legislation to strip the board of most of its duties that failed to see completion in the statehouse last month. He also lamented the operation of the board and department and the lack of a regular budget committee of the panel.

Board member Shea in nominating Mr. LaRue for president highlighted the various teacher of the year awards Mr. LaRue has received for his time as a history teacher. He was also a finalist for Ohio Teacher of the Year. He said Mr. LaRue is well versed in literacy, which the board last fall identified as its top priority area in its budget proposal. He serves at the State School for the Blind and State School for the Deaf and on various workgroups of the board.

“I believe Paul’s background, expertise…and track record make him the right person to lead this board,” Mr. Shea said.

Mr. LaRue briefly pointed to his 29 years in the classroom in a rural community. He emphasized that what matters are children and collaboration. “Good things happen when positive people work together.” He said he would bring positive energy.

Board Member Michelle Newman when nominating Dr. Collins said the board would be best poised for success with Dr. Collins leading it. Dr. Collins has been in education for 15 years either in the classroom or as an administrator. She has also served as a literacy specialist and has focused on “relevant and impactful outcomes” to make education better in Ohio, Ms. Newman said.

Dr. Collins, a 10-year curriculum director from Medina, said she originally joined the board to ensure the board does meaningful work that moves Ohio forward in a way that is based in research and data. She highlighted the resolutions she offered and were adopted by the board. Among them were resolutions to waive consequences from report card data during the pandemic and to urge the legislature to repeal the retention element of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. She also said workforce development is another subject that she works on outside of the board.

State Budget Update 9/6/22

The State Board of Education’s Budget Committee held a special meeting Aug. 29 during what is normally the board’s month off. The committee heard an overview of the department’s official budget proposal. Next, the committee will meet in September and ideally vote to approve the budget as it looks at that time. The committee’s recommendation moves up to the full State Board of Education in October for approval, which triggers its submission to the governor’s Office of Budget and Management. OBM will create the state’s full budget proposal for submission to the legislature in early 2023. The budget then moves through the Ohio House before going to the Senate. Expect many changes to the ODE budget as it goes through its cycle and each body puts its own priorities into the budget.

The State Board of Education’s top budget priority area is literacy. To that end, ODE developed a number of proposals and funding amounts to meet the goal of improving literacy among Ohio students. It proposes $43.25 million for this effort in fiscal year 2024 and $33.75 million in FY 2025.

ODE proposes to develop its own PD on the science of reading and provide $20 million to give stipends to incentivize teachers to take the training. They envision training to be taken on evenings and weekends. ODE will also work with the Department of Higher Education to allow for course credit for this same training.

The department also recommends, but cannot require, districts use their COVID relief dollars to purchase learning programs for their educators aligned to the science of reading.

The budget recommendation also includes a plan for ODE to invest one-time General Revenue Fund money in FY 24 to provide matching funds to districts that adopt high quality instructional materials, as determined by a list of such materials created by the department.

Meanwhile, ODE would work with the Department of Higher Education to align coursework and teacher prep programs with the science of reading. This would benefit those training to become teachers as well as in-career teachers, ODE Budget Director Aaron Roush said at the meeting.

Also on the literacy list is the development or purchase of a dyslexia screener and the plan is to do so with federal COVID relief funds in the first year of the biennium. For the following years, state GRF funds would cover those kindergarteners going forward.

Board member Brendan Shea questioned the term Science of Reading vs Evidence Based Practices and why the ODE documents presented Science of Reading capitalized as a proper noun. ODE Director of the Office of Approaches to Teaching and Professional Learning Melissa Weber Mayer said “science of reading” is the broad term around all of the evidence that has been studied. It does not refer to a specific program; it is the collective evidence-based strategies. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Stephanie Siddens said the department can articulate as part of their budget submission what that term means and also determine if it does need to be capitalized.

Board President Charlotte McGuire said the board and department have pledged to meet the unique needs of every child. We want our districts to be challenged and empowered to produce the best outcomes for students, she said.

The second area of priority is learning acceleration. Funding has been targeted to direct services to students via a Summer Opportunities Grant for summer enrichment via community nonprofit organizations, “high dosage” tutoring, and Learning Aid Ohio. The area would receive $24.1 million in FY 2025 in state funds and $3.5 million in federal funds for a total of $45.6 million that second year of the biennium.

Workforce Readiness priority funding would cover things like work-based learning, career advising and exploration, transition-to-work supports, summer vocational agricultural programs. Business Advisory Councils are something already required for all districts to have – or access via educational service centers. The funding proposed would create incentives for high-performing business advisory councils. There are 110 BAC and 10 are highly ranked. To increase that number, the incentives would compensate those who achieve a high rating. Similarly, incentive payments would go to districts per student engaged in work-based learning. Per the proposal, this area would receive $9.5 million in year one and $6.1 million in year two of the budget.