Resolution Opposing HB512 (Consolidating the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Department of Higher Education and the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation into a new state agency called the Department of Learning and Achievement)
While I have decided to support this resolution, I have significant concerns about how the Ohio Department of Education and the Department of Higher Education function. The ODE has been a source of frustration since I’ve been a school board member, and I’m sure long before that. Lack of communication, varying answers and interpretations, mandates that make no sense – those are just a few of the problems.
Unfortunately, with the way the department is set up, I wonder if it’s possible to fix it without something drastic like disbanding it and starting over. This is why I have come to that conclusion. For six years, I have been working to implement a program called the “Common Sense Initiative for Education,” modeled off the business Common Sense Initiative that balances regulation goals with the cost to businesses to comply. This is something the education world desperately needs to help address unfunded mandates and requirements that make sense for certain school districts but not across the board.
Governor Kasich and Lt. Governor Taylor are both very interested in this idea, as are several legislators. Unfortunately, where we get stuck is with the Ohio Department of Education and the Board of Regents, the coordinating board for higher education. We found they were not interested in considering our concerns, instead dismissing them and showing a remarkable lack of understanding for what happens in a K-12 school district – as well as a disregard for ensuring students receive a well-rounded college education (not to mention that students meet the state’s own K-12 graduation requirements).
The last meeting I had, with Senator Steve Wilson about a year ago, resulted in him telling me that legislators – despite any interest they might have, and support they would be willing to provide – could really do nothing, since this was under the purview of the Department of Education.
Given these experiences, the idea of consolidating the Department of Education and the Department of Higher Education into a new state agency is appealing in many ways. However, I don’t believe the proposal is developed enough; I would like to see more work put into it, including significant time spent talking with school districts, parents, and students.
I am hopeful, however, that this debate over House Bill 512 is a first step to providing more opportunities for input from local districts and differentiation of requirements based on individual school district performance and needs.