Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission Update
The Education, Public Institutions and Local Government Committee of the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission continues to hold hearings on Article VI of the Ohio Constitution, which deals with provisions for public education. In March 2014, the Committee heard a recommendation from the committee chair, Chad Readler, that the phrase “thorough and efficient” be removed or replaced in the Constitution. His recommendation was questioned by several committee members and triggered an outpouring of concern from public school supporters across the state. Many school districts adopted resolutions opposing Readler’s recommendation and copies of those resolutions were distributed to committee members. A template for the resolution is available on the OSBA website.
At the June meeting, the Committee heard a lengthy presentation by Charlie Wilson, an Ohio State University Moritz College of Law professor, on the origins and significance of the “thorough and efficient” clause. Mr. Wilson, currently a member of the OSBA Board of Trustees, presented a detailed overview of the history of the “common school movement” and its influence on the Ohio constitution. Wilson attributed the origin of this particular clause to a report by Calvin Stowe in 1836 following an on-site study of European educational systems. In his report, Stowe praised the thorough or “completeness” of these schools and their sense of efficiency, characterized by “effectiveness and little waste”.
According to Wilson, the language was incorporated into the Ohio Constitution in 1851 and has been a standard for over 160 years. In his testimony, he offered two alterative versions of Article VI, Section 2 for consideration. (Click here
to view the proposed versions). Both versions identify education as a “fundamental right” and call on the General Assembly to provide a “uniformly high quality public school system.” One version also calls for a “system of high quality, equitable early childhood education.”
Two other individuals, Maureen Reedy of the Central Ohio Friends of Public Education and Stephen Dyer, a former state legislator and an associate of Innovation Ohio, expressed their concerns with the proposed elimination of the “thorough and efficient” clause.
The constitutional modernization process is lengthy and requires several steps before any recommendation is approved. The current hearings are just the initial step. The voters of Ohio must ultimately approve any proposed changes. However, it is essential that Ohio public school leaders remain vigilant and be prepared to engage legislators and the community in this ongoing process.
Petition to Discharge “Common Core” Legislation
Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) introduced House Bill (HB) 237 in July 2013. The bill would curb further implementation of the Common Core standards in Ohio. To date, it has received only two hearings before the House Education Committee, with the most recent being held last November. Frustrated by the lack of movement, supporters in the Ohio House have resorted to a rarely used parliamentary tool – a discharge petition.
In brief, the discharge petition is an attempt to force action on a bill that has been stalled in a committee. To achieve the objective, a majority of members of the Ohio House must sign the petition. At this point, the discharge petition introduced by Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney) is reported to have about 40 signatures. Gathering additional signatures may be hampered by the fact that the petition must be signed in the presence of Rep. Adams — an action that may be difficult to accomplish as the legislature is now on summer break. However, we are told that supporters are contacting legislators personally to gather signatures. If and when the required signatures are collected, the matter will come to a vote before the full House.
Ohio legislative and policy leaders continue to express support for implementation of the new, more rigorous standards and assessments associated with the Common Core, or the Ohio Learning Standards. However, continuing opposition to the standards and assessments makes it more difficult for legislators to hold firm. Of further concern to supporters of the Common Core is the number of states that have backed-off initial support. Among the states where support has eroded are Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Louisiana.
As the November elections approach, it is important to remind your legislator of your district’s position on the Ohio Learning standards and to inform them of the cost and steps already taken by your district to put the standards into place. Your legislators need to be informed as to where your district stands, and of the costs that will be incurred if Ohio moves away from implementation. Also, your community members should be engaged in the discussions.
for talking points and a Fact Sheet on the Discharge Petition on HB 237 provided by the Ohio Standard Coalition.
If you have any questions regarding either the Ohio Constitution Modernization Committee or the discharge petition on the Common Core, please contact the Legislative Division of the Ohio School Boards Association.
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