The Salad Days Are Over

Spring Fever at the Leg’

Representative Thom Collier (R-Mount Vernon) is persistent, to say the least. He’s back again this session with HB 66--the contents of which were originally introduced “back when I had hair [see here],” mused Rep. Collier. The bill would replace the required number of days schools must meet with a set number of hours and would give districts more flexibility to set schedules and avoid “calamity days” for bad weather. Critics contend that some districts might take advantage of this flexibility by forcing children into 12-hour school days or reducing the number of school days altogether--one reason former Governor Taft vetoed the measure last year. We’ve already noted that any move from days to hours should result in expanded opportunities for increased student learning time, not simply greater convenience for districts (see here).

Senator Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) also has his eye on school days. His bill (SB 89) would largely strip away local control of school year schedules by preventing Ohio schools from beginning before Labor Day. Never mind that other states like Massachusetts are extending the school year to increase student achievement--and finding success in doing so (see here). Let’s hope Sen. Gardner’s colleagues can break this bout of spring (or summer) fever before any students lose valuable learning time.

Other bills to watch include HB 27 that seeks to water down the state’s education performance rating system, and SB 57, which would create a special education voucher program. 

Food for Thought (cause there’s nothing to eat at OBR)

Call it “Filet-gate” (at $30 apiece) or perhaps a crème of passion (for $8 brulées). Either way, the Ohio Board of Regents (OBR) is going on a diet. Turns out the nine-member Board managed to spend $3,186 in food at just six meetings since May 2005--including a dinner for 18 guests at Columbus’s Handke’s Cuisine that ran over $1,000 (see here). Lawmakers are blustering for accountability and Governor Strickland has placed a freeze on taxpayer-funded meals in all state agencies (see here). Couple the scandal over OBR’s penchant for haute cuisine with campaigns by the governor and Speaker Husted to relegate OBR to advisory board status (see here), and the result is some first-rate political dinner theater. To improve its odds of survival, OBR will appoint former Democratic state senator and U.S. House member Eric Fingerhut--Governor Strickland’s choice--as their chancellor (see here). Yet the Regents are ultimately pinning their hopes on HB 85, which would keep the chancellorship under their auspices and drastically increase the Board’s powers to set tuition and cut duplicative degree programs (see here). The competing bills see debate this week; nevertheless, Gadfly fears OBR’s goose may already be cooked.

You’re a Member, Now

Governor Strickland recently filled the empty seat on the State Board of Education (see here) with Akron parent and Litchfield Middle School PTA president Heather Heslop Licata. “Heather’s approach to educational issues reflects the utmost importance of quality, affordable education at the local levels,” said Strickland. We’ll wait for the governor’s budget (released this Thursday) to gauge his meaning.

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