Week in Review 2-17-23

Posted by on February 21st, 2023 in News

Interim State Superintendent Stephanie Siddens Monday took members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) on a deep dive of the governor’s recently released FY24-25 state budget recommendations, which she noted went “above and beyond” what even members had recommended for funding of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Siddens discussed how the investments fit in with the department’s priorities coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which it has dubbed the Future Forward Ohio initiative. Siddens called the two proposals “incredibly aligned,” adding that “the dollar figures go above and beyond what the board recommended, so the areas of focus are consistent, and the priority programs are as well.” According to ODE Budget Chief Aaron Rausch, the governor’s FY24 budget recommendation represents a 6.9 percent increase in funding, and the FY25 recommendation represents an additional 1.9 percent increase. In total, the governor’s FY24-25 budget would spend an additional $1.56 billion in General Revenue Fund (GRF) and Lottery Profits Education Fund (LPEF) dollars on primary and secondary education in the state, Rausch said.
Members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) Tuesday postponed a vote to award a contract to a search firm in the hunt for a permanent state superintendent, citing likely action by the General Assembly on a bill that would dramatically change the position. Ohio Department of Education (ODE) veteran Stephanie Siddens has been serving as interim state superintendent for over a year following the departures of Paolo DeMaria and Steve Dackin.
Senate Education Chair Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) told his committee Tuesday to expect a handful of amendments at the next hearing on SB1 (Reineke), the priority measure from Senate Republicans to give the governor more direct control of education policy and administration. Brenner outlined three coming amendments meant to do the following:
– Establish specific qualifications as to the educational and managerial experience of the two deputy director positions for the proposed Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) established under the bill.
– Codify required stakeholder engagement as part of the DEW rulemaking process. Brenner said this would be similar to practices now in place at the Ohio EPA.
– Specify that DEW may not enforce policies or guidance unless they have gone through the full, formal rulemaking process.
The Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is now accepting applications to develop and implement projects that enable and encourage children to safely walk or bike to school. The $5 million program provides funding for infrastructure improvements such as pedestrian and bicycle crossing improvements, new or improved sidewalks and bike racks. It also helps fund non-infrastructure activities such as walk to school days, bike rodeos, public awareness campaigns and educational programs, the department explained. Eligible applicants include local governments, school districts, health districts, park districts or key nonprofit partners involved in advancing safe routes to school in communities. Infrastructure projects, however, can only be awarded to a city, village, county or township. ODOT will make awards on a competitive basis to projects that have been identified in a School Travel Plan, Active Transportation Plan, or similar plan approved by the department. The 2023 SRTS Application Guidance can be found online at https://tinyurl.com/3sh6umht. The application deadline is Friday, March 3, 2023.
Legislation reducing taxes, prohibiting transgender women/girls from playing women’s/girls’ sports, and providing universal private school vouchers are among House Republican priorities for the 135th General Assembly, Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) announced Wednesday. Stephens said HB1 (Mathews) would “lower and flatten” taxes in the state. The “Save Women’s Sports Act,” HB6 (Powell), would prohibit transgender women and girls from participating in women’s and girls’ sports in K-12 schools, state institutions of higher education and private colleges. The “backpack bill,” HB11 (McClain-John), would establish the “Backpack Scholarship Program” to begin operating in the 2023-2024 school year.
Other priority bills include the following:
– HB8 (Swearingen-Carruthers), which would enact the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” and require schools to adopt a policy on parental notification on student health and instruction with “sexually-explicit” content.
– HB9 (Manning-Lightbody), which would establish the “Grow Your Own Teacher Program,” create a loan repayment program for eligible teachers and make other changes to teacher licensing.
– HB10 (Callender-Sweeney), which would further commit to the “Fair School Funding Plan.”
– HB12 (Jones-Dobos), which would rename the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) as the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce and reform the functions of the State Board of Education.

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