Monday, November 10, 2014

Clarifying the Ohio Situation (Or Not)

In today's, Tom Gunlock, Ohio State Board or Education vice chairman, tells everyone to simmer down on the Ohio elementary schools specialist flap.

First, the date of the vote, as reported by various sources, including me, is incorrect. That vote will not take place until December.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the essence of the story I reported is correct.

The state board will vote in December, not this week as some have claimed, on whether to eliminate requirements that local districts have a certain number of elementary art, music or physical education teachers, school counselors, library media specialists, school nurses, social workers and "visiting teachers."

Administrative code requires districts to have at least five of these eight positions per 1,000 students in what some call the "5 of 8" rule. The state board is considering wiping out that rule and allowing districts to make staffing decisions on their own.

Tom Gunlock, the board's vice chairman, said this morning that the proposed change isn't to eliminate those positions, as some are charging, but to let districts make their own choices.

What I reported, with others, is that the state is considering removing the requirement for those positions. Gunlock confirms that. What we now have is a rationale for it, and the rationale appears to be "local control."

"For years, people have been telling me about all these unfunded mandates and that we're telling them what to do. They keep telling me they know more about what their kids need that we do, and I agree with them."

It seems that arts and phys ed are still on the table, though I agree with other commentators that he school code seems to preserve those disciplines elsewhere (though maybe not with teachers certified in those areas). Wish I was a bit more familiar with Ohio school law.

But per this article, it is true that the state is not actually going to eliminate those positions. It's just going to give the green light to any local district that decides they want to eliminate those positions. Because there are so many parents and districts out there saying, "Dammit, our children don't need a librarian or phys ed or a nurse-- why the hell does the state force us to hire these people??" 

Gunlock says that the noise yesterday was blown out of proportion, and it is true that anybody who said that the state was going to eliminate those positions would have been over-reacting. Did anybody think that the state was going to say "There can be no arts, phys ed, etc positions in elementary schools"? No? Didn't think so.

No, the early buzz was correct. The state board would like to eliminate the requirement for those positions, leaving any local district free to eliminate some or all of them. Let me just quote me:

Who does this? Who jumps up and says, "You know what our students need? Less! Our students need less! Let's take a stand and do what we can to make it easier to give them less!" Who the hell does that? Apparently the Ohio State Board of Education does that. Tell them it's not okay.

The other takeaway from this article is that yesterday's commotion was enough to either make the newspaper say, "Gee, we should cover this" or (my vote goes to this one) the Ohio State Board call a newpaper contact to say, "Hey, we need some help getting a response out to this." Either way, the internet rumblings were felt.

You have a month to make some more noise, Ohio. Don't waste it. And let me repost this:


  1. Thank you for this, Peter. I'm from Ohio. I emailed them and I will again but I wouldn't have known to without this blog.

  2. I also emailed the Board and received a response from one of the Board Members. They summarized their dilemma with the following synopsis:

    "There is an old rule that requires schools to fill 5 of 8 specialist positions including art, music, phys Ed, nurse, counselor, librarian, social worker and visiting teacher. Since the rule was made several years ago more specialists have come into being such as ESL, reading, speech pathologist, tutors, teachers aids, etc. making the rule outdated. The question is how should it be changed to cover the many new positions that now exist and how much of this becomes an unfunded mandate. Do we now tell schools they must have ten of fifteen or fifteen of twenty specialists? Which of these positions should be optional. How will a mandate to hire specialists impact a district's ability to hire teachers? "

    The note also requests a response with suggestion on how to approach the situation. I am not an educator, I'm an arts advocate. I am researching information and hope that your blog receives some comments from others who would like to contribute to my response. If anyone would be interested in working with me on the response, I can be reached at

  3. Connecting dots...
    The State grants local control over arts, etc.
    The governor - elect proposes tax cuts again.
    Education budget is slashed again.
    Guess who loses their jobs?
    The biggest losers: children.
    But they're too young to vote.

  4. Instead of making the positions "optional" in order to address the supposed unfunded mandates, how about funding the positions? Makes sense to everyone except politician-types and the wealthy. Of course, they are the folks whose children go to schools where those positions aren't optional.