Week in Review > Week In Review 3-18-24

Posted by on March 18th, 2024

BALLOT ISSUES

For the eighth time, Attorney General Dave Yost rejected the summary language of a proposed constitutional amendment that would repeal constitutional immunities and defenses in cases alleging a civil rights violation by government actors. The petitioners submitted the latest version of the proposed amendment that would end qualified immunity on March 5. It was last rejected in November. In his latest rejection, Yost wrote that his office had “identified omissions and misstatements that would mislead a potential signer as to the actual scope and effect of the proposed amendment.”

CHILDREN/FAMILIES

The Ohio Commission on Fatherhood (OCF) announced Monday it will award up to 15 mini-grants to nonprofits and/or government entities which host father-child events in June, which is “Responsible Fatherhood” month. Selected entities will be reimbursed up to $3,000 for eligible expenses in June. The application deadline is 3 p.m. on Friday, March 22. More information is available at https://tinyurl.com/55x6jedv .

DISABILITIES

Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) Director Kim Hauck spoke Tuesday at a Statehouse awareness and advocacy event on developmental disabilities, telling attendees their work helped secure a “historic investment” of $1.5 billion through the budget, HB33 (Edwards). She said that funding means higher pay for direct support professionals, and people with developmental disabilities will have increased representation on county boards. Ohio also provided the nation’s highest investment in universal changing tables, Hauck continued.

ECONOMY

According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent in January, up from a revised 3.6 percent in December, as the state added 12,900 jobs. Friday, March 8 was the release of January’s unemployment numbers for Ohio instead of in February due to the annual benchmarking revision process. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the national unemployment numbers for February, showing an increase to 3.9 percent, up from 3.7 percent in January, as the nation added 275,000 jobs. ODJFS said the number of workers unemployed in Ohio in January was 212,000, up from 210,000 in December. The number of unemployed has decreased by 6,000 in the past 12 months from 218,000. The January unemployment rate for Ohio decreased 0.1 percentage points from 3.8 percent in January 2023. The U.S. unemployment rate for January 2024 was 3.7 percent, unchanged from 3.7 percent in December 2023 and up from 3.4 percent in January 2023

EDUCATION

Superintendent Paul Craft disputed Monday assertions of staff bloat at the State Board of Education (SBOE) as the board dug into its budget troubles. Craft presented a staffing overview during a meeting of the board’s Budget Committee, saying the board’s added three positions recently but otherwise has seen stable employment since FY15. Recently hired or soon to be hired are a human resources (HR) professional, a financial analyst and a chief lawyer.

Education officials Monday urged the SBOE not to raise teacher licensure fees to fill an upcoming budget shortfall. Parents and other school officials also raised concerns about changes to remote services through the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship and the Autism Scholarship Program. The SBOE received over 25 written submissions from superintendents and other school officials around the state asking them not to raise teacher licensure and evaluation fees to fill a budget gap caused by the board’s restructuring under the state budget, HB33 (Edwards) – a possibility raised last month by State Superintendent Craft as one way to deal with the board’s budget hole.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted Wednesday said that “every school” in the state should consider policies to limit or eliminate the use of cell phones in schools, citing research linking social media to mental health issues and worsening academic performance. DeWine, Husted, Ohio Second Lady Tina Husted, Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) Director Stephen Dackin, LeeAnne Cornyn, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), and school administrators from around the state participated in a roundtable discussion on cell phone use in schools hosted at the Dublin City Schools Emerald Campus. DeWine highlighted two major concerns over the use of phones in schools. First, that social media is harming teenagers’ mental health, and second, that phones are interfering with the “teaching environment” by distracting students from the classroom.

Husted Thursday spotlighted how the EdChoice program has affected one Ohio school. He joined a roundtable discussion with parents, administrators, and a student at the Saint Mary School in German Village in Columbus. Saint Mary Principal Gina Stull told Hannah News that 99 percent of the student body uses an EdChoice or Jon Peterson Scholarship to help cover the cost of tuition. Enrollment has grown rapidly for the school, which serves students from pre-K to eighth grade. In 2021 there were 240 students; now there are 400 and next year 500 students are coming in with more on a wait list. Saint Mary’s also recently completed a major expansion, including the conversion of an unused convent into a health clinic for the students. Husted toured the building and health clinic with administrators.

The point person for state literacy improvement efforts gave an overview Thursday of where DEW and local schools stand on implementing new requirements from the biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards). The DEW public hearing, required by law to take place every other month, also included remarks from a group representing educators who teach students whose native language isn’t English, praising DEW for draft rules on that work but also offering suggested changes. Chris Woolard, chief integration officer for DEW, said the next public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 9.

The judge overseeing a special education lawsuit between Warren County Educational Service Center and DEW) extended a restraining order while he decides whether to enjoin DEW from enforcing corrective action plans issued against the ESC, or to dismiss the case as state officials asked. Judge Timothy Tepe of the Warren County Common Pleas Court issued a restraining order shortly after the ESC filed the lawsuit, and Gary Stedronsky, attorney for the ESC, said Tepe indicated during the recent preliminary injunction hearing that he would extend it for now while considering motions. The case stems from a three-way dispute among DEW, Warren County ESC and Disability Rights Ohio (DRO), which is designated by the state under federal law to advocate for people with disabilities. DRO filed a “systemic” complaint against Warren County, alleging numerous special education violations. DEW investigated and issued corrective action plans for the ESC to follow, but then reconsidered and revised those plans. DRO responded with a due process filing, saying DEW had no right to reconsider the plans and arguing the reconsideration had cost students their awards of compensatory services. The ESC responded with a lawsuit, arguing DEW had no authority to accept a systemic complaint from DRO and that families had opted in to the programming at the heart of the dispute.

GOVERNOR

The governor signed the following bills on Wednesday, March 13; both become effective in 90 days:

SB17 (Wilson) — To incorporate free market capitalism content into the high school financial literacy and entrepreneurship standards and model curriculum and with regard to financial literacy course credit and license validation.

SB106 (Schaffer) — Regarding workers’ compensation coverage for testing when certain medical professionals are exposed to chemical substances or bodily fluids in the course of employment and regarding medical release forms for workers’ compensation claims.

MILITARY AFFAIRS

Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) Director Steve Dackin, Ohio Department of Veterans Services Director Deborah Ashenhurst, Major General John C. Harris Jr., Ohio Second Lady Tina Husted, and more all spoke Tuesday at the 2024 Military Signing Day held in recognition of Ohio high school students who have committed to serving in the U.S. military. The event, hosted by DEW, was held at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in downtown Columbus. High school seniors and juniors who are entering service academies, have committed to serve as active duty, Reserve, or National Guard members, or have earned a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Scholarship were invited to take part in the ceremony. Just under 100 students attended the event, according to a DEW official.

SOLAR ECLIPSE

Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order on Wednesday that directs all state departments and agencies to be prepared to ensure the health and safety of all Ohioans and visitors before, during and after the forthcoming solar eclipse. The total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8 will cross a 124-mile-wide band in the state of Ohio, the governor’s office said. The Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) is coordinating the state’s preparation and response to the event, and all law enforcement agencies are prepared to respond with necessary personnel and resources to assist local law enforcement in contributing to the safety and security of Ohio residents and tourists. Travelers are urged to arrive early and stay late to avoid the heaviest traffic. Additional preparedness resources are available at www.eclipse.ohio.gov and events surrounding the eclipse can be found at www.ohio.org/eclipse.

Posted by on March 18th, 2024

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