Fedor accuses Republicans of ‘power grab’ for proposing reforms to state board of education

Ohio Republicans want to strip the ability of the state board of education to oversee education policy.
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 3:33 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Ohio Senate Republicans look to overhaul the state’s board of education during the legislature’s lame-duck session to strip the body of much of its academic oversight authority.

Their proposal, spearheaded by Republican Sen. Bill Reineke of Tiffin, would transfer several of those duties to a cabinet-level agency led by a director appointed by the governor.

It arose as a priority for Senate Republicans after Democrats took control of a majority of the elected seats on the board in the Nov. 8 general election, though the candidates appear on the ballot without party labels in nonpartisan elections.

The proposed Department of Education and Workforce would oversee the development of curriculum and academic programs instead of the Board of Education. Reineke said the current system isn’t preparing students for life outside the classroom, citing low rates of students going to college or prepared to enter the workforce.

“We must ensure schools have the support they need from the state and students can access the academic and workforce skills they need to be well-educated, career-ready adults,” Reineke said in a statement.

Former state Sen. Teresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo, was among a slate of candidates who either defeated Republicans or ousted incumbents during the election.

She calls the proposals outlined by Republicans in Senate Bill 178 a “power grab” and says the timing is “ridiculous.”

“It’s an insult to the voters,” Fedor said. “It’s an insult to the state board of education members who have been working hard. And now that you have a change, more Democrats and Republicans on the board, (Republicans) may have seen that as a problem so they’re coming up with the solution.”

Seven of the board’s 11 elected members are now Democrats. Eight other members are appointed by the governor.

Reineke also cited a widening talent gap in the state as a reason for the reforms as major companies like Intel, Ford and Honda plan to set up shop or expand their footprints in Ohio.

“We do not have the workforce currently to fill jobs, which is what I hear in my district constantly,” Reineke said as he presented sponsor testimony on his bill in a committee hearing earlier this month. “‘We don’t want to hear about new jobs. We can’t fill the jobs we have now. Help us.’ I hear that from all the business leaders. There is no accountability for this failure either.”

Fedor places the blame on Republicans who have controlled both chambers of the legislature for much of the last few decades. She said she was aware the bill existed when she ran for the school board seat because it had been discussed in previous legislative sessions going back to 2018.

“If they were serious and really wanted to do something innovative, then they would have been working on it since then,” Fedor said. “All of a sudden now, it’s their bright idea that they’re going to force everyone to adopt because they’re lawmakers.”

Fedor said she’s concerned that if the reforms are enacted, various roles currently performed by the board of education will fall through the cracks.

“It’s going to cause chaos,” Fedor said. “The self-fulfilling prophecy that public schools are failing - It’s like we’re getting set up again, time after time after time by these Republicans. That must stop.”

Senate Bill 178 is likely to have multiple additional committee hearings in the coming weeks, according to Sen. Andy Brenner, the chair of the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee. The goal is to put it up for a vote before the end of the year, Brenner said.

Any legislation that doesn’t pass before the end of the year must be introduced during the next legislative session.

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