Another Disappointment from the State Board of Education

For the past year, those who have followed the actions of the State Board of Education (SBOE) have noticed a hostility to the attempts of independent schools to receive greater autonomy from burdensome regulations that make Ohio the most heavily regulated state for private schools in America.

The latest cheap shot from the board came approximately 5 minutes before their monthly meeting was adjourned. One member amended a pending resolution regarding the House changes to House Bill 487 to declare that the SBOE opposed any attempt to grant graduation testing flexibility to nonpublic schools, including the language contained within HB 487 to do just that. The language in HB 487 is supported by the nonpublic school community and provides accountability to the public while still recognizing the freedom that should come with private education.
This latest amendment, supported by 7 members of the Board (all of whom claim to support the role of private education in Ohio), is now the third time in the past year the SBOE has used an “emergency” resolution to oppose attempts by some or all private schools to rid themselves of unnecessary and unprecedented intrusions into the curriculum and assessment of private school students. At no time during any of these 3 “emergency” resolutions has the sponsor (who claims to support independent education) notified any member of the private school community that these resolutions are being offered. All 3 were designed to be offered and accepted with a minimum of input or deliberation.
Over the past year, both the House and Senate have taken major strides in recognizing the need for private schools to have the freedom to operate as they see fit. We couldn’t be more thankful for the efforts of the General Assembly to give us the independence that schools in every other state have. It is unfortunate some of that the State Board of Education members will essentially lie about their support of private schools while doing everything within their power (and sometimes outside of their statutory-given power) to oppose our efforts for more independence.
Actions (and votes) are certainly speaking speaking louder than words when it comes to Ohio’s State Board of Education.

HB 487 – Steps in the Right Direction

HB 487, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), advanced out of the House and will soon receive consideration by the Senate. There are several improvements to existing law and policy that are contained within the legislation, as well as a couple of items that have received some media attention.

One of those items is the expansion of the 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee (TGRG) to students on state-funded scholarships. The majority of OAIS members do not participate in any of the state scholarship programs but several do and it is important to those schools that the programs operate as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The most positive aspect of the TGRG expansion is the recognition of the fact that private schools are inherently different than public schools. Private schools are required to notify the parents of a student who may be in danger of facing retention in the 3rd grade. However, HB 487 also allows schools to keep the authority they should have, as private schools, to craft a remediation plan that is the best fit for, and in the best interests of, the student.
A negative aspect of the proposed legislation is the application of the policy to students receiving a Jon Peterson Special Needs (JPSN) scholarship. While it is true that students whose IEP exempts them from the testing will not have the TGRG applied to them, we need to do more to respect the work that members like Marburn Academy, Lawrence School and Springer School and Center do for their students. These are the best schools in the state for educating students with learning differences. If anyone is in a position to determine the proper grade level or promotion of a student,  it is the teachers and administrators at these schools. HB 487 does not have any language that would give consideration to these schools and we hope that changes.
It is certain that HB 487 will not go through the Senate unchanged. We look forward to working with members of the Senate to make a good bill even better.