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Bill Would Fold Ohio Department Of Education Into Workforce Agency

Rep. Bill Reineke speaking.
Karen Kasler
Ohio Public Radio
Rep. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) backed by many of the top GOP House leaders, rolls out plan that would overhaul the Ohio education system and give more power to the governor.

Ohio House Republicans have rolled out a plan that would bring big changes for the state's Department of Education and the Board of Education. Supporters say it will bolster the connection between education and career-readiness, while Democrats say it would create a less-responsive state government.

The plan would fold the state Department of Education into the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation. It would be called the Ohio Department of Learning and Achievement, with the director answering directly to the governor. That official would be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

The bill would also strip the state school board of most of its power to craft education policy and have members focus on issues including discipline and teacher licensing.

Republican Representative Bill Reineke says Gov. John Kasich’s office played a role in writing this plan.

Although it creates a huge new department and new positions, Reineke believes this will actually scale back the role of government in Ohio’s schools.

“I believe it really cuts it back because it really…we need to solve these issues that we have with the workforce. Again my whole thing, of this whole thing is workforce we are not supplying the needs of our kids,” Reineke says.

But Democratic Rep. Teresa Fedor, a former teacher, adamantly disagrees. Fedor says the proposal would take away local control and strip important decision-making power away from an elected state school board and puts it in the hands of political appointees.

"A bigger, mega-department of education will mean a tangled web of unresponsive, unaccountable appointed officials can more easily put special interests ahead of our children’s best interests," Fedor said in a press release. 

"If Ohioans think the state of education can’t get any worse, this proposal is a sobering reminder that it can. This isn’t surprising – it’s just another bad idea on a laundry list of failed education policies from GOP leaders,” Fedor said.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.