COLUMBUS — A bill introduced Tuesday in the Ohio Senate will give the state’s superintendents fewer required mandates in the operation of their school districts.
Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, 12th District, introduced the Ohio Public School Deregulation Act as superintendents from across the state were in attendance in Columbus. Senate Bill 216, if approved, would reduce the number of mandates and regulations which public schools are required to follow.
“All too often what sounds like a good idea in Columbus translates instead to burdensome paperwork and tedious tasks that distract teachers and superintendents from their primary role in our schools — educating students,” said Huffman.
The bill will reduce 100 of the mandates which includes education topics and standards including teacher licensure and aide permits, Ohio teacher evaluation systems, state testing and student assessment, student management and safety, state testing and preschool operating standards. All of the items under discussion are included in either the Ohio Revised Code or agency rules.
“These issues take up an absurd amount of teacher and administrator time and labor, which could be used more appropriately to deliver quality education to Ohio’s children,” Huffman said.
Huffman said the collaborative effort with the superintendents began in the spring after he was elected to the senate.
“When I was in the House (of Representatives), the one common statement I heard during my eight years was the extra costs of the variety of mandates required by the state,” said Huffman. “This spring, I invited all the superintendents in the 12th District to a meeting.”
The effort, he said, was spearheaded by Waynesfield-Goshen Superintendent Chris Pfister. The group met in Minster and within the 2-3 hour meeting had a preliminary outline of mandates which concerned the superintendents.
“I’m not the ship captain at a school,” said Huffman. “Officials like to create a list of things which cost money but they don’t improve the academic program.”
In addition to Pfister, Brenda Boeke, Minster Local Schools superintendent, Jason Wood, Coldwater superintendent, and Julie Garke, St. Henry superintendent, lead the way to gather the information from the other superintendents.
“They all worked together and sent emails out to the larger group (of superintendents),” said Huffman.
The goal, he said, was to eliminate the outdated mandates and to let the superintendents do the job they were hired to do.
“At some point, we have to let the managers manage,” said Huffman. “Some of the rules and requirements were passed because someone thought it was a cool idea. They never take into account how they (superintendents) were going to make it happen.”
Huffman said he asked the superintendents what they wanted to see changed. The bill was given to the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, who presented to 300 superintendents last week.
“Public school districts in Ohio have found themselves on the receiving end of unfunded mandates and state regulations that are often written to fit a need in one particular area of the state but may not be relevant to our area,” said Boeke. “SB 216 provides relief from some of these mandates/regulations while giving back control to our local school boards of education. Under this legislation, local school boards will be responsible for improvement plans if the third grade reading guarantee is not met.
“Local school boards, under the guidance of the superintendent, will be permitted to waive licensure requirements for teachers already holding a license for assignments appropriate for that teacher’s experience. Local school boards will address any determined need in the areas of compliance toward student safety measures. Additional requirements of this bill, like the item analysis referencing standards for all tested areas, will assist the local school district in determining instructional strengths and weaknesses,” she said.
“I believe this legislation is a first step in returning local control of public education to our communities and their elected officials and appreciate Senator Huffman’s willingness to sponsor it,” Boeke concluded.
Huffman said one of the items in the bill deals with excused and unexcused absences.
“Attending a state basketball game is an excused absence,” said Huffman. “But a parent taking their child to the Mayan Temple is an unexcused absence. This (trip) would be a great educational experience.
“We need to let the superintendents made the decision on whether it’s an excused or unexcused absence from school,” he said.
Other local superintendents have voiced their support of Huffman’s bill and his willingness to work with the superintendents to help with the education process of their students.
“As one of the superintendents last spring that attended Matt Huffman’s initial meeting regarding the possibility of public school officials and legislators collaborating on the creation a deregulation bill that would rectify some of the unfunded mandates that have become obsolete over the years,” said Hardin-Houston Local Schools Superintendent Larry Claypool. “I’m excited about Senate Bill 216 and how it evolved from the follow up meetings and am looking forward to an improved relationship between school administrators and Sen. Huffman in the future on other issues that affect public education. I hope this is the first of many new opportunities for public school officials to have input on where education is going in Ohio and the nation.”
Russia Local Schools Superintendent Steve Rose said the bill will help the districts with providing the best education they can for their students.
“I strongly support any bill that reduces the costly and cumbersome state mandates that are currently imposed on Ohio’s public schools,” said Rose. “These mandates only increase the bureaucracy and within each district and have an adverse affect on the schools ability to run efficiently and effectively. I believe that the more local control that is given to our schools the more responsive our schools can be to meet the needs of each unique community.
“Reducing the mandates such as the third grade guarantee allow for parents and educators who personally know each student to make a decision about retention and not one size fit all approach based on a third graders performance on a standardized test,” said Rose.
Aaron Moran, Versailles Exempted Village Schools superintendent, said he appreciates Huffman’s support in getting more local control sent back to the school districts.
“I appreciate Sen. Huffman’s willingness to listen to the superintendents and work collaboratively to help the kids,” said Moran. “I think it’s great he’s willing to work with the schools and the kids.”
Returning more control to the local school districts, said Moran is important because “We know our kids the best. The school district and the teachers know how to service them the best.”
Huffman said the bill will now go to the Senate’s Education Committee.
“I’m hoping to have a hearing for the bill next week with the Education Committee,” said Huffman. “For the local school districts, this is a positive thing.”
Huffman said the bill could be changed — with items taken out or new items included.
“This is a good start and I hope to get it moving quickly,” said Huffman.
The 12th District includes all of Allen, Champaign, Mercer and Shelby counties, along with portions of Auglaize, Darke and Logan counties.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.