GREENVILLE — When Ohio Senator Matt Huffman (12th District) was in the state House of Representatives, a regular comment he encountered from superintendents and school board members was about the mandates on local districts that came from the state, he said.
This led to his introduction of Senate Bill (SB) 216 in the state Senate, October 10, to enact the “Ohio Public School Deregulation Act” regarding the administration of preschool and primary and secondary education programs. If the bill is approved, it will reduce the number of mandates and regulations which public schools are required to follow. According to Huffman, every superintendent in the 12th District was invited to a meeting in Minster, in March and more than 30 attended.
“I said give me a list of the things that the state is making you do that costs money and or time, that in your mind don’t add to the educational product of helping you teach your kids,” Huffman said. “A smaller working group of about 10 superintendents presented the list to me in August/September, of what they thought were obvious things that should be changed. I put that in the form of Senate Bill 216.”
According to Huffman, SB 216 has about 80 items to change, such as: allowing an option for paper tests on state assessments for some students; eliminating kindergarten diagnostic tests and consolidating teacher licenses into two grade bands (K-8 and 6-12).
“It is more difficult for superintendents to find the right teacher for the right class when their placement is restricted by their type of license,” Huffman said. “Let’s make this a little more flexible.”
Huffman said, since the introduction of the bill, it has received a lot of support from other district’s school districts, such as Senator Bill Beagle’s fifth district. Arcanum-Butler School District Superintendent John Stephens said he spoke with Senator Beagle on Friday, to ask for Beagle’s support in passing the bill.
“I believe the bill provides some common sense relief for schools and allows for local decision-making by boards of education and administration,” Stephens said. “Schools aren’t a one-size-fits all, and while we understand the importance of guidance and accountability, the issues Senator Huffman has proposed will give schools the necessary flexibility to ensure success.”
In Huffman’s district, there are 44 school districts in the seven counties that he represents, including a portion of Darke County. On Friday, Huffman visited fifth through eighth-grade students at St. Mary’s School and fourth-graders at Versailles Exempted Village School District. Huffman said the curriculum for Ohio government is typically taught in the fourth and seventh grades.
“I do a long-winded explanation of government, I challenge them on their knowledge and we do a quiz bowl approach,” Huffman said. “At St. Mary’s, we tried to pass a bill. After visiting the two schools I visited today, I think the world is in pretty good hands 20 years from now.”
Versailles School Superintendent Aaron Moran said he appreciates Senator Huffman’s willingness to listen and to understand concern from superintendents in his district.
“SB 216 will help restore local control over education decisions to meet the unique challenges each district addresses,” Moran said. “I look forward to continue working with Senator Huffman for the best interest of students.”
According to Huffman, the bill is in the hearing process. State Senator Peggy B. Lehner (6th District) and chair of the Senate Education Committee said, Senator Huffman is to be commended for working with area superintendents to draft this comprehensive legislation.
“I look forward to working with him as the education committee carefully considers the broad range of issues contained in this bill,” Lehner said.
In addition to the hearings, Hufffman is out asking people for support, he said.
“We are going to do what we should do, which is debate,” he said. “It would be one thing if these things could get addressed between the school districts and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), but they are not. If you have people in place who can exercise judgment; let them do that. What is true in one school district is not true in another. Think about the difference in the school district like Versailles that has about 1,300 kids and a school district like Cleveland that has about 42,000. These are completely different demographics and family structures. Each superintendent has a different set of issues in each school.”
ODE Associate Director for Media Relations Brittany Halpin said, “Since he was appointed last year by the State Board of Education, Superintendent DeMaria has worked hard to further engage the state’s educators in several key areas, including graduation requirements, testing, the Every Student Succeeds Act state plan and Ohio’s strategic plan for education.”
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4354. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.