State could re­vamp ed­u­ca­tion at the top

The Columbus Dispatch - - Opinion/forum - JAI CHABRIA Jai Chabria for­merly served as se­nior ad­viser to Gov. John Ka­sich, and also as head of per­son­nel for the state of Ohio.

Are you able to name your elected mem­ber of the state Board of Ed­u­ca­tion? The likely an­swer is no. These pub­lic ser­vants each have dis­tricts that rep­re­sent pop­u­la­tions of more than a mil­lion Ohioans.

The board is an un­wieldy 19-per­son board, com­pris­ing 11 mem­bers elected by vot­ers and eight mem­bers ap­pointed by the gover­nor. It is an in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful body, which ad­ju­di­cates griev­ances against pub­lic school teach­ers, pro­vides pol­icy lead­er­ship for the Ohio Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion, and makes de­ci­sions about grad­u­a­tion test scores and the state re­port card. Its most im­por­tant task is hir­ing and fir­ing the su­per­in­ten­dent of pub­lic in­struc­tion who runs the day-to-day op­er­a­tions of the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

You read that right. A board com­prised of peo­ple whom even the most in­formed Ohioans could not name, chooses the leader of the Ohio pub­lic school sys­tem.

There are three ob­vi­ous ways in which the cur­rent flawed struc­ture is not able to pro­duce the best out­comes for our chil­dren.

First, Ohio es­sen­tially has

The peo­ple who serve on the state school board are mainly well-mean­ing pub­lic ser­vants. But their roles have been mis­cast in one of the most im­por­tant pol­icy ar­eas for our state’s fu­ture.

two bod­ies mak­ing ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy in the state. The leg­is­la­ture is tasked with pass­ing laws in the state, but when it comes to ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy we have two en­ti­ties that are of­ten at odds with each other when it comes to de­cid­ing how our schools should serve our stu­dents. This added layer of bu­reau­cracy makes things con­fus­ing, wa­ters down pol­icy, and isn’t good for our chil­dren.

Sec­ond, Ohioans elect gover­nors to be stew­ards for the state. The gover­nor de­cides who over­sees trans­porta­tion, pris­ons and tax­a­tion. This al­lows for state agen­cies to work to­gether, with a shared vi­sion to help move the state for­ward. The Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion is the only ma­jor ex­ec­u­tive branch depart­ment over which the gover­nor does not have di­rect ap­point­ment au­thor­ity. So while vot­ers will ul­ti­mately hold gover­nors re­spon­si­ble for the way in which pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion is ad­min­is­tered, the state’s chief ex­ec­u­tives never have full con­trol of the out­comes.

Third, the board is one of the most po­lit­i­cal bod­ies in the state. One only needs to do a Google search of its ac­tions to see how hy­per­par­ti­san it has been over the years. The petty dis­putes which have plagued the board only harm our kids.

There are sev­eral ideas float­ing around Cap­i­tal Square to ad­dress some of these prob­lems. Some in­volve re­duc­ing the num­ber of board mem­bers. Others in­volve ad­ding more ap­pointed seats.

But, there is an easy, com­mon-sense so­lu­tion that will be bet­ter for stu­dents.

Re­cently, Michi­gan law­mak­ers in­tro­duced a res­o­lu­tion to abol­ish their state board of ed­u­ca­tion through a statewide ref­er­en­dum.

The Ohio Board of Ed­u­ca­tion is con­sti­tu­tion­ally man­dated, so we would have to go through a sim­i­lar process if we were to abol­ish the board. We don’t have to go that far. It’s all about re­def­i­ni­tion.

The Ohio Con­sti­tu­tion sim­ply states:

“There shall be a state board of ed­u­ca­tion which shall be se­lected in such man­ner and for such terms as shall be pro­vided by law. There shall be a su­per­in­ten­dent of pub­lic in­struc­tion, who shall be ap­pointed by the state board of ed­u­ca­tion. The re­spec­tive pow­ers and du­ties of the board and of the su­per­in­ten­dent shall be pre­scribed by law.”

The leg­is­la­ture should re­de­fine the roles of the board and the state su­per­in­ten­dent in statute. The board should deal ex­clu­sively with teacher li­cen­sure. This would fit with man­dates of many other boards and com­mis­sions through­out state govern­ment. The su­per­in­ten­dent would func­tion­ally be­come the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of this still im­por­tant board and have a small staff to make sure cases are ad­ju­di­cated in a timely man­ner.

A new po­si­tion called the di­rec­tor of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion could be cre­ated in law. This would be an ap­point­ment by the gover­nor with ad­vice and con­sent from the Ohio Se­nate, through a process ev­ery other cab­i­net mem­ber in the ex­ec­u­tive branch goes. The di­rec­tor would run the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Form fol­lows func­tion. The func­tion of the Ohio Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion is to en­sure that schools and dis­tricts are pro­vid­ing our chil­dren with a qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. The cur­rent form does not make any sense and there­fore will never op­ti­mally de­liver on that func­tion.

The peo­ple who serve on the state board are mostly well-mean­ing pub­lic ser­vants. But their roles have been mis­cast in one of the most im­por­tant pol­icy ar­eas for our state’s fu­ture.

Vot­ers will hold gover­nors and leg­is­la­tors ac­count­able for the fu­ture of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion. Let’s give them a sys­tem that will ac­tu­ally al­low them, and most im­por­tant our chil­dren, to suc­ceed.

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