Board of Ed Committee Sends Rule Requiring School Course Offerings to SBOE
After debate, the
State Board of Education Emerging Issues Committee voted to recommend that the
full State Board of Education (SBOE) send the rule to the Joint Committee on
Agency Rule Review (JCARR) that would have the effect of requiring chartered
nonpublic schools to offer at least one high school-level course in one of the
following subject areas: foreign language, technology, family and consumer
sciences or business education.
But in discussion,
board members voiced concerns that while a version of the rule has been on the
books since at least 2006, that rule has not been enforced over the past 15
years -- an enforcement oversight that drew the ire of Senate Education
Committee Chairman Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), who was in attendance.
He asked, "So 15
years ago, all these schools would have signed off on this, and nobody at [the
Ohio Department of Education] (ODE) followed up to see if they were compliant
for last 15 years?"
ODE Office of
Nonpublic Educational Options Director Sue Cosmo and Executive Director of
Field Relations Scott Hunt repeatedly told Brenner and committee members that
while ODE conducts onsite inspections when schools are first chartered, the
department only conducts rule enforcement about mandated course offerings when
it receives complaints that a school is out of compliance.
Brenner went on to
recommend that the committee either reach out to the Legislature with a request
to codify the existing practice of chartered nonpublic schools' not being
required to offer one of the specified courses, or that it submit the rule to
JCARR, with committee members eventually choosing the latter.
In describing the
rule's history, committee member Mike Toal explained that there have
historically been different operating standards for public and nonpublic
schools, and so references to "the school" or "the
district" in Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) were considered references to
public schools. The language in question, contained in OAC 3301-35-04 (B)(1),
originally specified that school districts shall offer all the specified
And in 2019, Toal added,
ODE legal staff sought to "clarify" the rule by adding explicit
references to chartered nonpublic schools, and that chartered nonpublic schools
must offer all the specified courses. ODE legal staff said the original
definition of "school district" included chartered nonpublic schools,
so the change truly was a clarification rather than a substantive one, despite
Toal's assertions that references to "school" and
"district" in OAC meant public ones in practice and that the change
could result in nonpublic schools' having their charters revoked.
Since ODE legal
staff's change in 2019, the rule has since been amended so that the explicit
references to chartered nonpublic schools have stayed in, but language
specifying which courses must be offered has been removed. The result is that
policy is deferred to what's already in Ohio Revised Code (ORC) -- that per the
state's graduation requirements, all the state's schools are to offer high school-level
instruction in at least one of the following areas: foreign language,
technology, family and consumer sciences or business education.
The rule change
additionally prompted an objection from the state's Common Sense Initiative
(CSI) asking the department to reinstate the full list of required courses in
rule. "The proposed rule change will have a direct and adverse impact on
businesses who depend on Ohio’s education system to train workers to fill its
workforce needs," the letter from CSI to ODE reads.
In ODE's own public
comment period, the department received two letters from chartered nonpublic
school advocates asking for the course mandates not to be required, as well as
many letters from global language teachers and other teachers asking for their
courses to be required offerings.
The rule now heads to the
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on April 12, 2021. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.