COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – “If you can’t beat them, take away their power.” That’s what a newly elected Ohio Board of Education member is saying about a Republican-backed proposal that would strip away most of the authority and duties of the state education board.
Senate Bill 178 was proposed after Democrats won enough seats on the board to hold a majority.
“They’re seizing more power and the power shifting that’s going on and literally taking away the voice of the people,” said former state Sen. Teresa Fedor, one of three Democrats who captured seats on the state board of education, giving Democrats seven of the 11 elected seats.
One week later, Republican Sen. Bill Reineke introduced Senate Bill 178, which would dramatically reduce the authority of the board and shift power to a new state cabinet-level agency.
“We were elected,” Fedor said. “We’re now the majority on the board. It seems suspicious that all of a sudden now they have this plan.”
The new agency would be created and controlled by the Republican governor and Republicans who hold a supermajority in the state legislature.
“Our children deserve strong educations that prepare them for their futures and we must ensure that the state system for overseeing the process is transparent, accountable, and effective in this critical mission,” Reineke said. “In fact, it is our obligation.”
While introducing the bill, Reineke said it will improve outcomes and get students more career ready.
“Well, let’s remind the voters in 600-plus school districts that Republicans have been in charge of public education for over 30 years, minus four years with the Strickland administration, and we’re now ranking in the 30s for education,” Fedor said. “And now they’re going to just seize this power, democracy away from the people and put it in a layer of bureaucracy in the cabinet. And I know one thing since my 22 years serving as a legislator: the more the people are away from the public view and oversight, the likelihood of corruption in misspending and malfeasance happens. All we have to do is look at the charter school example.”
Fedor said there is no oversight or accountability for charter schools, and this plan could mean the same thing for public schools.
“So, you know, this is something that deserves the full vetting of the bill, in the process, with the public watching,” she said.
Fedor, a former teacher, said the bill should be subject to public scrutiny with hearings and a chance for testimony. She fears, though, that it will be pushed through the lame duck legislative session with no input from the public, teachers, or local school boards.