Legislative Watch – September 24, 2021

HB 322 and HB 327 – “OEA leaders, members lead challenge to bills designed to kill academic freedom and honesty in the classroom”

OEA President Scott DiMauro and other OEA members presented opponent testimony this week on legislation that would prohibit teaching certain “divisive concepts.” Instead of censorship and fear, President DiMauro called for honesty in education and trusting educators to do their jobs.

Copies of President DiMauro’s opponent testimony can be viewed at the following links: HB 322 and HB 327

A video of President DiMauro’s opponent testimony on HB 322 and HB 327 can be viewed HERE.

You can take action by using the OEA Action Alert to send an email letter to your State Representative and for guidance on submitting written-only testimony to the committee.

Lawsuit Challenges General Assembly Maps as Unconstitutional

Several voting rights groups have filed a lawsuit arguing that General Assembly maps adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission are unconstitutional. Earlier this month, the Commission adopted maps on a party-line vote. The suit alleges the maps violate provisions in the Ohio Constitution adopted by voters in 2015 to reform redistricting and end partisan gerrymandering.

Specifically, the lawsuit focuses on Article XI Section 6 of the Ohio Constitution which states, “No general assembly district plan shall be drawn primarily to favor or disfavor a political party” and “the statewide proportion of district whose voters, based on statewide state and federal partisan general election results during the last 10 years, favor each political party shall correspond closely to the statewide preferences of the voters of Ohio.”

Over the past ten years, voters in Ohio have favored Republicans over Democrats by a margin of approximately 55% to 45%. However, the maps adopted by the Commission were drawn to give Republicans a two-thirds of the seats in both the House and the Senate—a veto-proof majority.

Over 71% of Ohio voters passed redistricting reform. Hundreds of Ohioans testified about the need for fair maps and fair representation. However, the Redistricting Commission process was marked by delays and a lack of transparency. The maps adopted by the Commission broke both the letter and the spirit of the law. The party-line vote results in maps that, if upheld, would be in effect for only four years.

The lawsuit challenging the maps was brought by the League of Women Voters of Ohio, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute of Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and six Ohio voters. The lawsuit was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court which has sole jurisdiction over the General Assembly redistricting process.

SB 1 – Financial Literacy Graduation Requirement and Substitute Teacher Flexibility

The House Education Committee unanimously passed SB 1 this week. The bill creates a half-unit financial literacy requirement for graduation and also extends for the 2021-22 school year temporary flexibility for districts to hire substitutes that do not have a four-year degree. The next steps for SB 1 will be a floor vote in the Ohio House and then a concurrence vote in the Ohio Senate. OEA has engaged with stakeholders as an Interested Party on SB 1.

SB 1 does the following:

  • Requires students who enter ninth grade for the first time on or after July 1, 2022, to complete a half-unit of instruction in financial literacy as part of the required high school curriculum. Overall graduation requirement of 20 units remains the same. Students can take the financial literacy course by using a half-unit of elective credit (out of 5 elective units) or as a substitute for a half-unit of Algebra II.
  • Beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, each public school and chartered nonpublic school must require an individual to have an educator license validation in financial literacy to provide financial literacy instruction for high school credit. Exempted from this validation requirement are those who have a license or endorsement required to provide instruction in social studies, family and consumer sciences, or business education. For individuals that obtain a financial literacy validation, a school district must cover up to $500 of the cost and the district is reimbursed by state funds.
  • Extends through the 2021-22 school year temporary flexibility for districts to hire substitutes that do not have a four-year degree. The rationale for this extension are substitute shortages exacerbated by Covid-19.