GOP-led Ohio Senate makes fresh effort to strip state education board's power

If the 2,000-page bill passes and is signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, nearly all duties of the Ohio State Board of Education would be transferred to a director of education.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine

Ohio Senate Republicans took another swing at stripping power from the state board of education and superintendent by introducing a bill Wednesday afternoon that revisits a plan that failed to pass last month.

The state has not had a permanent superintendent since 2021, using interims to fill the position since then.

If the 2,000-page bill being spearheaded by State Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, passes and is signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, nearly all the duties of the partially elected Ohio State Board of Education would be transferred to a director of education. That post would occupy a newly created cabinet position under the governor.

By law, the governor appoints eight of the 19 members of the state board. The remaining 11 members are elected by Ohio voters in non- partisan elections. This past November, Democrats picked up three additional seats, two of which had been held by Republican incumbents.

According to Dan Tierney, a DeWine spokesperson, the governor has not initiated any legislation. He maintained that while bills are the work of the Legislature, not the governor, DeWine’s office will monitor the Reineke bill closely.

Under the proposed law, Ohio’s 1.7 million public schoolchildren would be subject to the revamped department, divided into two divisions – primary and secondary education and career technical education.

As previously reported by The Center Square, the Senate passed a similar bill in early December but it failed pass the House before the session ended later last month.

The bill would have the board continue to deal with boundary and transfer issues, along with teacher licensing. It would be allowed to advise on policy issues but have no authority to create education policy in the state.

That bill, which passed 22-7, also added workforce development to the school board’s mission, and Reineke said career paths should be an important part of the education system in the state.

The Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Association of Teachers said they did not had time to review the potential changes, according to Sen. Vernon Sykes, D-Akron.

In 2007, Gov. Ted Strickland issued a directive to revamp Ohio’s public education system. He wanted to streamline coordination between the state’s public schools and post-secondary institutions in the state, including colleges and adult career centers.

Before that in 2015, Gov. John Kasich sought to alter the roles and structure of the board.

Both attempts failed.