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Monday, November 20th, 2017

Area schools support deregulation bill

Legislator seeks to get rid of 'lot of bad policy put in place over many years'

By Sydney Albert
Local school officials are supporting Senate Bill 216, known as the "Public School Deregulation Bill," on which state Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, has worked collaboratively with many local superintendents.
The bill is the result of eight months' worth of work, Huffman said. Superintendents from across the 12th State Senate District first met with him in February to discuss the concerns, particularly unfunded mandates, they had with the Ohio Department of Education, Huffman said.
"Essentially these things cost the school districts a lot of money and they provide very little educational benefit," Huffman said. "And many of them are put in place because there's sort of this mindset we get into where someone thinks they have a good idea and we pass a law and it's up to the school districts to figure out how to get it done. It's a lot of bad policy that was put in place over many years."
Huffman said about 80-90 mandates would be affected by the bill, including those affecting teacher and substitute teacher licensure, teacher evaluations and College Credit Plus courses. The bill has been touted by local school boards as a way to return power to local school districts. Huffman said school districts spend money, time and effort to keep up with mandates that could better be used to instruct kids.
"You've got sort of a centralist bureaucracy that you're trying to keep happy instead of trying to teach Johnny how to read," Huffman said.
The Marion, Minster, St. Henry, New Bremen and St. Marys boards of education have all passed resolutions declaring their support. Similar resolutions are on the agenda for upcoming board meetings at the Celina, Coldwater and Fort Recovery districts.
Parkway Local Schools Superintendent Jeanne Osterfeld said a resolution supporting Senate Bill 216 is not on the district's board agenda at this time as it's something board members haven't discussed. Osterfeld, who was not superintendent at the time, had not been one of those who met with Huffman to discuss the bill, but she said it has a lot of good aspects.
One proposal that would impact Parkway would be the elimination of the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, Osterfeld said.
The KRA is a state-required diagnostic assessment that Brenda Boeke, Minster Local Schools superintendent, described as "limited in its instructional value, yet requires a great deal of time to administer." Osterfeld and Boeke said their districts have their own assessment plan, which teachers use to develop lessons for their students.
"The elimination of the KRA, allowing schools to use effective diagnostic assessments, would give back to students and teachers valuable instructional time," Boeke wrote in an email.
The bill would eliminate state-mandated diagnostic testing for K-3 literacy for districts with an 80 percent or higher pass rate on the third-grade reading guarantee.
Changes to teacher licensure include eliminating the current long-term substitute license and establishing a single substitute license with no criteria on college degree and no restriction on the number of days that can be worked, consolidating all teacher licenses into two grade bands of K-8 and 6-12 and removing the requirement for 30 hours of annual professional development for gifted program teachers.
Some changes to substitute licensure were made by the ODE after the bill had been introduced, Huffman said. However, he believes the changes need to be cemented by law to prevent a future ODE administration from changing back things.
"I am thankful for that. There is a shortage of subs and it was very difficult for us to find a long-term sub that was certified in certain hard-to-staff areas," said Mike Pohlman, Marion Local Schools superintendent.
Districts would no longer need to establish an absence-intervention team for a student "absent for a period of time that exceeds the threshold for a habitual truant" and would not be required to notify students' parents, guardians or custodians if a student is absent with or without a legitimate excuse for 38 hours or more in a month or 65 hours in a school year. Excused absences would no longer be counted toward truancy.
Reporting requirements of all safety mandates would be consolidated into a single report that would be filed with the ODE annually at the conclusion of each academic year. The report will operate as a "checkbox," with districts checking "yes" or "no" to indicate if each category had been accurately addressed. If a form were checked "no," district officials would be required to provide to the local board of education a written explanation including a plan of action to address the problem within 30 days.
If a course were offered at both a student's district school and the corresponding College Credit Plus college, the student would be required to take the course at the district school, unless the district class was overenrolled. Parents would share the cost of textbooks for CCP courses with the district, except in the case of economically disadvantaged students and home-schooled students. The district would cover the cost for economical disadvantaged students, and home-schooled students would be entirely responsible for paying for their textbooks.
"This has always been viewed as free classes for students to get a head start on furthering their education," Pohlman said. "They are not free and cost the taxpayers money with the school district floating the bill. I am not recommending getting rid of the entire system but a student should not be permitted to take a course at college that is already offered at their home school. Parents should also share in a portion of textbook costs."
The bill also asks the ODE to issue a report on the results and cost-effectiveness of the CCP program for students and districts. The report would need to address if the program had truly helped students save money on college tuition and if the program reduced time for students to attain a degree.
"I also believe a report should be completed that shows the amount of students that actually graduated early from college due to getting a head start by taking CC+ courses. Most of the conversations I have had with parents shows that their child was not further ahead," Pohlman continued.
The bill has run into some opposition, Huffman said. Some are concerned the bill will lessen school oversight and transparency.
"We're not trying to eliminate government oversight of local school districts. We're trying to let them do their job and allow the judgments that inevitably have to be made, be made by the people that we pay a lot of money to do that," Huffman said.
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