Ohio bill calls for merger, gubernatorial oversight of state education departments
- A proposal in the Ohio legislature is looking to consolidate the state's K-12 and higher education departments, with the new department to be managed under the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. The legislation is opposed by advocacy organizations representing teachers and school board members throughout the state.
- Supporters of the bill say that consolidation of the departments will encourage collaboration between secondary schools and colleges, which will benefit students of all skill levels and improve career prospects.
- Home-schooling parents have also spoken out against the bill, which some say will infringe upon established guidelines for instructional autonomy.
Merging secondary and higher education departments could likely save money and improve administrative efficiency, something public college systems throughout the country are looking to improve. But any proposal that grants extended oversight of system or campus governance to the governor can mean major operational changes with any election cycle, or a number of external influencing factors.
Public higher education is already vulnerable to political and economic influences created by board member relationships; they impact a number of issues from athletics, to capital development to curriculum design. A way for schools to insulate themselves against negative executive actions could be extensive training for trustees or governors on accreditation and best oversight practices.
School leaders may consider ways to proactively engage elected officials to partner in responsible, effective methods of oversight. For example, updating governors on accreditation site review preparation could strengthen a state's view of how to keep schools in compliance, why elected officials must remain clear of interference, and how stability in public funding makes a major difference in the eyes of accreditors.
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