Last week, the House Education Committee received hundreds of pages of testimony opposing their version of Senate Bill 229. They introduced a new substitute bill on Wednesday, May 14, before the testimony was considered, but the bill is still exceedingly more complex and convoluted than the Senate-passed version of the bill. In the testimony, educators from across Ohio urged the committee to revert back to the simple and reasonable modifications that the Senate’s version would put into place.
On that same day, the Senate Education Committee met to hear testimony on House Bill 487, the education-related components of Governor Kasich’s budget bill. During that session, I offered simple testimony requesting that the exact language from their version of SB229 be inserted into HB487 and be passed and sent to the Senate floor. Statehouse insiders were already hypothesizing that this change was on the verge of happening, so I merely wanted to have the formal request documented in the public hearing. My testimony was very brief, and the five members of the committee in the room smiled and laughed as I told them that their version was the correct move and that if they visited the House Education Committee website, they could also view the hundreds of pages of testimony supporting their version of SB229.
No final votes were taken on either SB229 or HB487 last week.
When the meeting schedules for next week were released, the House Education Committee chair, Gerald Stebelton, left SB229 off of their agenda. Perhaps they see finally see the writing on the wall and realize that the Senate is going to push through the language in HB487. Also, given that the General Assembly only has a couple of weeks left before they break for the summer, it appears unlikely that SB229 will make it out of the House.
Meanwhile, the Senate Education Committee has HB487 on their agenda for their Tuesday session, with numerous amendments likely to be made and a possible vote scheduled. The Senate now appears to be in the driver’s seat on these changes to Ohio’s Teacher Evaluation System as they now also control the future of other bills that the House wants to see passed (HB171, HB193). Expect to see the original SB229 language adopted in HB487 next week as deals are made behind the scenes. When the amended bill goes to conference committee to get the differences worked out, we expect the outpouring of support to embolden Senator Peggy Lehner to force the changes through.
As the Senate Education Committee meets on Tuesday, there is another opportunity to submit testimony supporting the inclusion of the evaluation system changes into HB487 for quick adoption. Senate Education Committe Chair Peggy Lehner (R) has frequently been receptive and willing to work across the aisle on some education issues and, if we, as educators, provide her with more written support for the SB229 language that she was able to get passed unanimously by the full Ohio Senate, this would provide her with even more ammunition to take into the conference committee to hold the line on these simple changes.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Type up your own personal testimony supporting the original, reasonable, Senate version of SB 229. Your testimony does not need to be elaborate — the simpler the better. For comparison, my testimony was two paragraphs long, followed by the exact language from the Senate version of SB229 which I merely cut and pasted into my document. If you wish, include a personal story (especially principals who have spent an inordinate amount of time conducting evaluations this year). Include your name, where you work, and your address (to prove that you represent Ohio’s educators).
Email your written testimony as an attachment to Chair Peggy Lehner’s office before the end of day on Monday, May 19, via her legislative aide, P.J. Brafford, to PJ.Brafford@ohiosenate.gov with the subject line: Written Testimony Regarding House Bill 487
To ensure that the office has received your testimony, you may follow up by calling (614) 466-4538.