BILLS TO WATCH: The Ohio Public School Deregulation Act

July 31, 2018 by DRO Policy Analyst Jordan Ballinger / legislation

Education policy has been a major area of focus this General Assembly. Specifically, school administrators have been working through legislation to remove regulations they view as burdensome. They believe the fewer regulations imposed on schools will provide more flexibility to districts and allow them to establish better outcomes for students. However, many regulations were established to help protect students with disabilities and allow them the same opportunity to succeed as their peers. If essential regulations are removed, this could lead to a larger achievement gap between students with disabilities and their peers.

What you need to know

Senate Bill 216, was sent to the governor to be signed into law near the end of July, after the House and Senate both passed the measure with several amendments. When the bill was introduced, it removed several regulations that are essential to students with disabilities. These changes ranged from reporting sizes and excused absences to licensure requirements, center-based teachers, and educational assistants. Much of what SB 216 set out to do would lead to schools not meeting their obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Since the bill’s introduction in October, Disability Rights Ohio has worked with legislators to ensure they were educated on the impacts this bill would have on students with disabilities. After months of hearings, the bill was revised, and many of our proposed changes were incorporated.

Major Concerns

One major concern DRO had with the bill was the removal of requirements for substitutes to be qualified teachers. Unqualified educators pose a risk to students with disabilities, especially when these students require specialized instruction to address their disability-related educational needs. The IDEA requires students with disabilities to be served by qualified special education teachers. Removing these requirements would violate federal law.

The second major concern with the legislation was the change in reporting size. SB 216 increased the number of students with disabilities needed to be present in a school building before being reported. Specifically, the bill increased the size to 30 students. This would mean schools with fewer than 30 students with disabilities would not need to include those students in their reporting. Without accurate data on these students it becomes nearly impossible to quantify the achievement gap leaving these students behind their peers.

Where We Are Now

Both major concerns DRO had with the legislation were addressed in the final bill passed by the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate. For substitute teachers, the bill was changed to require the State Board to issue new standards for obtaining a substitute license and require the post-secondary degree of the individual obtaining the license to be related to the subject area being taught.

As for the reporting size, the final bill was amended to reflect the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan. By the 2019-2020 school year, schools will be required to report on student group sizes of 15 or more students, helping to capture more students with disabilities.

It is important for legislators to understand how changes to the law can impact students with disabilities, especially when these changes could be potentially harmful to their education.

To learn more about the legislation, all the concerns DRO had with the bill, and the various changes made to SB 216, visit our legislative resource page. To give your own feedback on this or any other bill in the Ohio Statehouse, contact your state Senator and Representative (see the search box in the lower left corner).

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