Ohio Department of Education is about to be dramatically re-designed after the state senate votes to put it directly under the governor’s control.

Education in Ohio is struggling. Ranked 31st in the nation for overall quality of education, the state is currently seeing falling scores in standardized testing, a sharp rise in absenteeism that can’t only be attributed to the pandemic, and a large percentage of students allowed to graduate without reaching basic milestones in literacy and math.

Senate Bill 178, which passed 22-7 on Wednesday in Ohio’s very red state senate, would do away with elected officials in the Ohio Department of Education. Rebranding the department as the Department of Education and Workforce, it would be led by a director and two deputies appointed directly by the current Ohio governor.

“This bill, by the way, is not perfect…,” Sen. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware, said Tuesday. But “there seems to be no urgency coming from the Ohio Department of Education. It’s not there. It hasn’t been there for several years.”

“This bill proposes placing more power in the executive branch, which will silence the public’s voice, access, and transparency regarding education policymaking,” Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper said in opposition, testifying before the state board of education. That’s a right likely to disappear under an appointed leadership.

This bill was only proposed after the November elections, giving senators, educators, and the Ohio Board of Education less than a month to read and analyze the 2100-page document.

“We’re just concerned that we are moving really quickly,” Alliance for Quality Education Director Tony Podojil said.

This bill would place all education responsibilities such as curriculum, implementation of new laws, approval of testing, and strategic planning into essentially the hands of the state governor. The board would only be retained to handle teacher licensing and school redistricting.

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