Superintendents across Ohio sincerely thank state Senator Matt Huffman for sponsoring and strongly advocating for the passage of Senate Bill 216, the Ohio Public School Deregulation Bill. The bill recently signed into law by Governor Kasich was in development for over a year and it represents countless hours of dedicated work on behalf of local school districts.
Sen. Huffman started this journey by offering to sponsor a bill written by leaders from local school districts to address numerous mandates that cost time and money, disrupt educational process, create barriers to putting the best teacher in front of children, take management control from locally elected boards of education, and do not contribute to the core purpose of education—high quality instruction and student learning.
Huffman said this bill must be written by the leaders in the trenches: those that know how things work every day in their school buildings; and must be designed to improve effectiveness, reduce wasted time, and cut paperwork and bureaucracy. He recognized so many unnecessary mandates created by top down, centralized government getting in the way of local school district educators who are closest to the work and charged with getting things done for students.
A steering committee of eight local school leaders wrote the first draft. Additional issues and potential solutions were collected from almost all of the 42 school systems in Senate District 12 at a meeting requested by Huffman in May of 2017. Ultimately, nearly 180 local boards of education sent board resolutions in support of SB216, and over 100 teachers and administrators across Ohio testified in support of the bill. Supporters ranged from Jefferson, Geauga, and Muskingum Counties; from Tri-Valley to Athens; from North Olmstead to Liberty Benton, from Coldwater to Centerville, to Mason and Wyoming (Cincinnati). The support advocated for a focus on a mission to create a common sense process and practice for their students, teachers, and local community members.
To highlight, here are just three of the 15 improvements in SB216:
• It will correct the developmentally inappropriate requirement of 100% on-line, high stakes, timed third grade reading and writing tests in order to go to fourth grade. Each district will now have the option of either paper or on-line. Paper-pencil assessments will ensure the delivery of a more reliable reading and writing test that isn’t encumbered by manipulating keyboards and drop down menus that can act as barriers to reliably assessing Ohio’s youngest children.
• It will make adjustments to the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System that will free principals and teachers from arduous and unnecessary paperwork along with unreliable Student Learning Objective assessments which will enable a more practical focus on teaching children. (reduces some of the massive reporting to Columbus)
• It will provide an avenue to assign the most qualified teacher to teach children; state licensure is improved, still fractured, but now better; a principal could now allow an accomplished third grade teacher to teach a class of fourth graders (prior to this legislation they could not by state law)
Joining me in thanking Sen. Huffman for his extraordinary that went above and beyond the call of duty are the SB216 Steering Committee. It includes Brenda Boeke, Minster Local Schools; Shawn Brown, Auglaize County ESC; Jason Wood, Coldwater Exempted Village Schools; Julie Garke, St Henry Local Schools; Shelly Vaughn, Mercer County ESC; Jim Kanable, Shawnee Local Schools; Keith Horner, Wapakoneta City Schools; and Ken Schmiesing, Celina City Schools.
Chris Pfister is superintendent of Waynesfield-Goshen Local Schools