Two Ohio teachers’ unions that are keeping tabs on the Ohio Legislature’s handling of education say they hope the general assembly focuses on funding and attracting new teachers rather than bills that regulate curriculum and “divisive” issues.
Controversy has erupted in public education decisions over the past year on how to teach about race and how schools should approach students who identify as gay or transgender. In the midterm election, The liberal teachers’ unions, the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), and the Ohio Education Association (OEA) contributed tens of thousands of dollars to help the campaigns of their Democratic candidates to secure support for their left-leaning agenda.
Former State Senator Teresa Fedor and former teachers and members of OFT Tom Jackson and Katie Hofmann each won their races to the Ohio State Board of Education against the more conservative candidates, owing in part to these teachers’ union contributions.
“The three individuals who won those contested races are all strong advocates of public education, they have strong records on that. I would anticipate they would work closely with other members of the state board who have been pushing back on some of those (culture wars) attacks. How everything is going to play out still remains to be seen, because you still have an extremist faction that is pushing some of those resolutions. Some of those members are still there,” OEA President Scott DiMauro said.
The OEA says it wants the legislature to focus instead on an increase in Ohio state minimum teacher salary, fully funding the Fair School Funding Plan, extending public service loan forgiveness, strengthening educators’ retirement security, removing financial barriers for completion of pre-service requirements for teacher licensure, creating and maintaining an accessible statewide database of education job openings, seeking feedback from educators on their working conditions, and requiring the state to complete a comprehensive assessment of the alignment of Ohio’s teacher preparation programs with the realities of pre-K-12 schools.
Conservative lawmakers have a different focus on issues in education. Republican priorities lay with ridding curriculum of divisive concepts making education inclusive and non-political for all students, not just those who identify as LGBTQ. They also prioritize curriculum transparency and parental rights as shown by the bills they have introduced.
Conservative legislators are working to pass bills that will regulate school curriculum and ban Critical Race Theory and other “divisive concepts.” House Bill (HB) 616, sponsored by State Representatives Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) and Mike Loychik (R-Bazetta), is the most recent “divisive concepts” bill.
HB 616 specifically names Critical Race Theory (CRT) and other far-left agendas in schools. According to the bill, any CRT teaching falls into the category of “divisive.” So does intersectionality, the far-left concepts that go hand in hand with CRT, focusing on sexually and racially “oppressed” minorities. The bill would prohibit diversity, equity, and inclusion learning outcomes and inherited racial guilt. The bill also stops the state from forcing teachers to undergo any kind of diversity training in order to obtain or renew a teaching license, and in fact dictates that such training does not count towards any education licensure.
“All children deserve and should receive an education that is impartial, balanced, and age-appropriate. This legislation encourages free and fair discussion between our educators and their pupils,” Loychik said.
Conservative legislators also introduced HB 529, sponsored by State Representatives Bill Roemer (R-Richfield) and Brett Hudson Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville). This bill would require public and private schools to post the school curriculum online by July 1 each year. It also would require public colleges to post the same things for high school students enrolled in the College Credit Plus Program.
“It is not our intention to encourage or aid censorship in our education system. Nor is our intention to deal directly with Critical Race Theory (CRT) or any other specific topics. Rather, our intention is simply to foster parent involvement in their kids’ education by providing them with the information and transparency that they deserve,” Hudson Hillyer said.
Another piece of legislation that lawmakers introduced this year is HB 722, sponsored by State Reps D.J. Swearingen (R- Huron) and Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton). The bill would require schools to draft a policy that promotes parental involvement in their child’s education and honor that policy. The bill would require schools to notify a parent of a change in their student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being. School district personnel would also be prohibited from discouraging or prohibiting parental involvement in critical decisions affecting a student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.
“The focus is to ensure that parents are empowered to be involved in their child’s education both inside and outside the classroom. In Ohio, we value parents taking an active role in their child’s life. When parents are involved, their children succeed. When children succeed, the future of Ohio becomes brighter,” Swearingen said.
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