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Career-Technical Education in Ohio: A Year in Review

By Will Vorys

Introduction

Ohio ACTE leadership and staff work hard all year round to represent the interests of career-technical and adult education in front of Ohio’s legislators, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), and the Governor’s Office.  As we look back on 2019, we celebrate milestones and achievements, and we look to 2020 to continue to advance career-technical and adult education statewide.

Notable Events 

Our advocacy activities this past year began with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner, ODHE Senior Vice Chancellor Mike Duffey, and Senate Majority Leader Matt Huffman joining us in January 2019 at the Ohio ACTE annual Legislative Seminar, following the November 2018 election cycle.  Subsequently, on March 7, 2019, more than 100 students shared their career-tech programs via displays at the Ohio Statehouse Atrium during our annual Student Showcase. And in recognition of career-tech’s importance to the state’s workforce development endeavors, Christine Gardner, Ohio ACTE Executive Director, was appointed to the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board. 

Perhaps most importantly, all throughout the year career-technical schools across Ohio hosted their state legislators and Federal members of Congress on tours so that policymakers could get a first-hand look at career-tech in action. 

An Evolving Political Environment

Overall, 2019 was a significant year of change in Ohio’s political and legislative environment.  Working with newly elected Governor Mike DeWine’s Administration, the 133rd Ohio General Assembly passed some significant pieces of legislation, including the state’s $69 billion operating budget bill. Enhancing education / workforce development continued to be a policy priority for the DeWine-Husted Administration and legislature, with career-technical and adult education taking center-stage like never before.  Early on, Lt. Governor Husted took the lead in reestablishing the Office of Workforce Transformation, serving as its Director. The OWT has a renewed focus on addressing the ever-changing workplace environment and filling the in demand, technology-related “jobs of tomorrow.” 

Governor DeWine appointed former state senator Randy Gardner as Chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE).  Former state representative Mike Duffey was also selected as Senior Vice Chancellor. Both are long-time supporters of CTE and have made sure career-technical schools and administrators are “at the table” in relevant higher education policy discussions. Paolo DeMaria maintained his position as the state superintendent of public instruction and continues to lead the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). 

The beginning of the year also saw an unprecedented battle for the Ohio House speakership, with Glenford Republican representative Larry Householder defeating incumbent Ryan Smith for the top spot.  As a result, both parties in the House have formed new leadership teams and instituted a number of reforms, including live-streaming all committee hearings, encouraging bi-partisan legislation, and working to ensure an open and fair amendment process during committee deliberations.   

State Biennial Budget

On July 17, 2019, the Ohio General Assembly passed the state’s biennial operating budget bill, HB 166 (the “Budget”)—which Governor DeWine executed shortly thereafter.  The Budget froze funding over the biennium (FY 2020-21) for all school districts at FY 2019 levels, with policymakers voicing a commitment to working on a revised school funding formula over the ensuing two years.  Nevertheless, the budget included various streams of supplemental education-related funding to achieve a handful of the DeWine-Husted Administration’s policy goals, including:

  • $675 million of “wellness and success” funding for schools to serve at-risk students.
  • $50 million directly (and as cost reimbursement) to schools whose students earn high school industry recognized credentials.
  • $30 million to supplement training costs associated with adult short term certificate programs, and to establish additional short term programs
  • $43 million to Ohio Technical Centers
  • $20.5 million for adult education programs

The Budget also included revised high school graduation requirements, mandatory for the class of 2023 and optional for the classes of 2018-2022.   To qualify for a diploma under the new framework, a student must meet curriculum requirements (earn minimum high school credits set by the state / district), and do both of the following: 1) attain a “competency score” on both the algebra I and English language arts II end-of-course exams (or use an alternative demonstration of competency); and 2) attain at least two state diploma seals.

School Funding Discussions

Policymakers continued discussing ways to enhance the state’s school funding formula, ensuring it is equitable and fair to all students and schools statewide.  In particular, state representatives Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) continued working with Ohio’s education community and other stakeholders to develop a new funding method they have tilted the “Fair School Funding Plan.”  Although the DeWine-Husted Administration and lawmakers declined to adopt the proposal as part of the FY 20-21 state budget, Reps Cupp / Patterson have since introduced stand-alone legislation (HB 305) that contains their proposal.

The future of HB 305 remains uncertain.  Policymakers have expressed various concerns about the bill, from its high price tag (estimated at $1 billion over several years), to its minimal impact on struggling, less affluent school districts. We expect the House Finance Committee to continue deliberations on that bill and other proposals in 2020. 

Senate Bill 89

In the first few months of 2019, state senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima) introduced legislation to help resolve several policy issues impacting the ability of career-technical schools, teachers, and administrators to efficiently deliver quality CTE to students.  Collaborating with the Senate, the DeWine-Husted Administration, ODE, and ODHE, the CTE Associations made a handful of improvements to SB 89 during the committee hearing process, and on October 23, 2019, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed the bill.  

SB 89 is now under consideration in the Ohio House of Representatives and has received one sponsor hearing before the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee.  We anticipate the bill will receive several additional hearings and are hopeful it will make it through the House in 2020, prior to summer recess.

CTAG Workgroup

In 2019, the CTE associations made it a priority to revisit the post-secondary credit transfer process for career-tech courses / students. In response to our advocacy, and in collaboration with ODHE, the legislature included language in the biennial budget bill (HB 166) to establish a workgroup to create a plan (by June of 2020) to modify the CTE post-secondary credit granting process.  Although the group—comprised of representatives from OACTS, Ohio ACTE, Ohio CCS, the Ohio Association of Community Colleges, the Ohio Association of Private and Independent Colleges, the Inter-University Council, ODE, and ODHE—has not yet settled on a definitive plan, it is making good progress and heading in the right direction after two productive meetings. The overarching goal recognized by all participants is to allow CTE post-secondary credit to be placed on a student’s college transcript immediately upon completion of a CTAG (or articulated) course.  

Other Education-Related Legislation / Issues

Several other education-related issues have been percolating throughout the year in the legislature.  Some have been resolved, and some will continue to be considered in 2020—the second year of this legislative biennium.

  • HB 2 (TechCred):  Executed by Governor DeWine in December of 2019, HB 2 creates parameters surrounding the Budget’s “TechCred” program, and also establishes the new Individual Microcredential Assistance Program (IMAP). Depending on the microcredential, employers can receive up to $2,000 in reimbursements for training costs for both incumbent and prospective employees.  Training providers may seek up to $3,000 in reimbursements for educating individuals participating in IMAP, with a focus on helping low-income, underemployed or unemployed individuals.
  • HB 367 (School Counselors): The House Education Committee has held three hearings on HB 367—legislation requiring the state to establish a job description for school counselors, and permitting public schools to consider / adopt said job description.  We anticipate additional hearings to take place throughout 2020.
  • HB 322 (RESA): The House Education Committee has held three hearings on HB 322—legislation revising the Ohio Teacher Residency Program, and eliminating the RESA assessment for k-12 instructors.  Several educators and administrators have offered testimony in support of the bill.  We expect hearings to continue throughout 2020.
  • HB 154 (Academic Distress Commissions): In May of 2019, the Ohio House passed HB 154—legislation that would repeal academic distress commissions and replace them with a more community-based model.  The Senate continues to deliberate on the bill, and differences appear to remain between the House, Senate, and Administration regarding the best pathway forward.  We expect HB 154 to be a priority in 2020. 
  • K-12 Report Card Committee: Representatives from public schools, teachers unions, and education reform groups convened in the final months of 2019 to discuss a new state report card system for traditional school districts, with most folks urging complete elimination of the A-F grading framework.   Meetings will continue into 2020. 
  • School Voucher Expansion: The expansion of eligibility for school voucher programs in 2019 has recently caused more and more school districts to lose funding and, as a result, policymakers have indicated an expedited fix may be in order for 2020. Eligibility for the main EdChoice voucher program has expanded for several reasons, including the end of a prior safe harbor period limiting the eligibility of additional school buildings and a Budget provision allowing students to receive vouchers even if they did not previously attend public schools.  In addition, over the last two years there has been a 300 percent increase in the number of schools deemed “under-performing” based on Report Card scores—further expanding voucher eligibility. We anticipate the legislature to work to contain the expansion in early 2020 and minimize its impact on funding the state’s public school system.