By Will Vorys
The 135th Ohio General Assembly convened this month to begin the new legislative biennium (2023-2024).
Political dynamics remain largely unchanged in the Senate with Matt Huffman (R-Lima) serving another term as President. Conversely in the lower chamber, a divided Republican caucus saw Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) elected as the new Speaker, and we continue to await full House committee assignments. We anticipate the state operating budget bill to be introduced imminently, with hearings taking place in the House over the next several months. We will keep OACTS members apprised of the numerous opportunities in the coming weeks to testify before the House Finance Committee, the House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education, and the House Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education.
Aside from the budget bill, both chambers appear poised to continue vetting legislation (SB 1) that would restructure the Ohio Department of Education into the so-called Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). The DEW would have a division of career-tech and a division of primary and secondary education—each represented by a deputy director who sits on the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board. Each deputy would report to an overarching DEW director who would serve in the Governor’s cabinet. The bill would also transfer policymaking responsibility from the State Board of Education to the DEW—allowing the Board to focus on educator licensure, licensee discipline, and school district territory transfers. OACTS intends to provide proponent testimony during the upcoming second SB 1 hearing likely to take place in early February.
In addition, please note the following recently introduced bills that are relevant to your schools and students.
SB 5: Sponsored by Sens. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Nathan Manning (R- N. Ridgeville), SB 5 would establish the Workforce Voucher Program, requiring the Director of Development to award vouchers to students at colleges and OTCs seeking degrees, certifications, or licenses for in-demand jobs. The maximum annual voucher under the bill is the lesser of $5,000 or 75% of the cost of tuition during the academic year.
SB 11: Sponsored by Sen. Sandra O’Brien (R-Rome), this bill would expand the state’s EdChoice Voucher Program to all students beginning with the 2023-24 school year. It also increases the homeschool tax credit from $250 to $2,000.
SB 14: Sponsored by Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction), this bill would expand eligibility for veterans to be employed as teachers without licenses.
SB 17: Sponsored by Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Warren County), SB 17 would incorporate free market capitalism content into the high school financial literacy standards.