Lame Duck Lawmakers Push Array of Education “Deregulation” Measures

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Senate Bill 3, the state’s so-called “Education Deregulation” bill, was passed by lawmakers in last week’s Lame Duck flurry of activity and contains several interesting education provisions.

First, the bill exempts the state’s 22-highest ranked school districts from requirements including the use of specially-qualified reading teachers to comply with the 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee, teacher licensing rules, and state mandated maximum class sizes. Currently, the Ohio Department of Education limits schools to a maximum 25:1 student-teacher ratio. Under SB3, Ohio’s highest performing school districts could legally operate with unlicensed teachers and 50:1 student-teacher ratios.

The following districts meet the prescribed bill criteria for these exemptions, according to the 2015-2016 state report card. District median income is also included, as well as the statewide median income rank:

districts

With an average income of $57,563, it is clear that these districts are wealthy, at least when compared to the other 589 school districts in Ohio, where the median income is just $33,429. Because student poverty tracks so closely with student performance, it’s equally fair to say that the state is exempting high-wealth school districts from regulation.

Other provisions in SB3 include:

  • A school or district eligible for performance-based private school vouchers will remain eligible for vouchers through the 2018-2019 school year, even if its performance exceeds any other building or district in the state. Prior to SB3, if a school or district is eligible for vouchers because of poor performance, they would be removed from the voucher-eligibility list if that performance sufficiently improved. No longer.
  • Allowing charter schools to admit students of school employees over other students, which is a system employed by most private schools, but not at the public schools that charter school proponents claim to be.
  • Does not provide safe harbor to the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, so the politically connected but now politically toxic outfit will need to find another way to avoid repayments to the state for the $60 million it was paid to educate students that it cannot prove actually attended.
  • Eliminates requirement that Ohio Department of Education rate school and district extracurricular activities
  • Eliminates requirement of sign-off from the local superintendent for homeschool students to be issued a diploma
  • Limits to 2 percent of school time spent on state assessments, and 1 percent on test preparation

Interestingly, no Ohio charter school would qualify for the exemptions contained in SB3 under the standards listed in the bill. Three charters would qualify under the report card components in which they receive grades, but as none are high schools, they couldn’t meet the high school graduation rate requirements to receive the exemption. There are about 400 charter schools in Ohio.