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!