It appears representative government has become a bit inconvenient for our Governor and statehouse leaders.  In October, columbus-haunts-11*304Governor Kasich bypassed the state legislature and went through the Controlling Board to expand Medicaid while House Speaker Bill Batchelder and Senate President Keith Faber all too willingly obliged.  We have heard General Assembly members express concern over this skirting of the peoples’ house, but it may just be a lot of lip service to old fashioned representative government for after having determined health care policy in Ohio, the Controlling Board is being called on again to determine education policy.

Reps. Peter Stautberg and Andrew Brenner have introduced HB 413 which forbids the implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) tests for the 2014-15 school year and prohibits the renewal of the State’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Partnership after it expires at the end of calendar year 2015.  The bill also calls on the Ohio Department of Education to recommend replacements for the statewide Common Core assessments.

Common Core opponents may cheer this move thinking the General Assembly has stepped in to rid us of the lynchpin to Common Core implementation and all that it entails:  loss of local control of education, millions in local tax dollars spent on start-up costs, and the collection and sharing of private student data.  After a closer reading of the bill, however, it’s clear that the General Assembly is not ridding Ohio of Common Core achievement tests, but rather transferring the authority and accountability for the ultimate make-up of the tests to the Controlling Board, an obscure, unelected panel made up of six legislative appointees and one handpicked by the Governor.  The bill reads,

“After the recommendations of the Department are presented to those committees, the recommendations shall be considered for approval by the Controlling Board. No assessment recommended by the Department shall be administered unless it is approved by the Controlling Board.”

This language leaves a person scratching his head.  The Controlling Board was formed for bureaucratic convenience by the General Assembly and the Office of Management and Budget “…as a mechanism for handling certain day to day adjustments needed in the state budget.”  It was never intended to decide legislative policy that determines the direction and scope of say, Medicaid, or to transform the educational curriculum relied on by the children of our state.

But the perverse nature of HB 413 goes beyond the lack of representative accountability it guarantees, for it does something our founders never intended; it completely shuts the Statehouse doors to the people of Ohio.  There are no prolonged public hearings with the Controlling Board allowing for widespread public testimony.  The Board listens politely to select experts as a nod to public participation, and then votes.  The hundreds of Common Core opponents who have sat patiently for hours waiting to testify at Education Committee hearings will be left knocking on Statehouse doors.

And if opponents try calling their representative, they will be told, “Thank you for your advocacy, but the decision is out of our hands.  The Controlling Board will decide what tests your children will take and ultimately what your children will learn.”

Reps. Stautberg and Brenner declare this act an emergency measure “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.”  This language serves no purpose other than cover for abdicating legislative authority for education policy to the Controlling Board.  Ohio local school districts have safely educated children since their establishment and will continue to with or without state achievement tests that primarily act to cement top down command and control of education.

Reps. Stautberg, Brenner, the House Education Committee, and your own representative need to hear from you before the make-up of the Ohio achievement tests are out of their hands.  Please call them today and ask why the Controlling Board knows more about educating the children of their district than the district’s own elected representative.

Representative Peter Stautberg:  614-644-6886

Representative Andrew Brenner:  614-644-6711

Ohio House Member Directory:  http://www.ohiohouse.gov/members/member-by-county

Ohio House Education Committee:

Gerald Stebelton (R) Chair:  614-466-8100

Andrew Brenner (R) Vice Chair:  614-644-6711

Teresa Fedor (D) Ranking Minority Member:  614-644-6017

Nickie Antonia (D):  614-466-5921

John Becker (R):  614-466-8134

Heather Bishoff (D): 614-644-6002

Timothy Derickson (R):  614-644-5094

Denise Driehaus (D):  614-466-5786

Bill Hayes (R):  614-466-2500

Michael Henne (R):  614-644-8051

Matt Huffman (R):  614-466-9624

Stephanie Kunze (R):  614-466-8012

John Patterson (D):  614-466-1405

Debbie Phillips (D):  614-466-2158

Kristina Roegner (R):  614-466-1177

Marilyn Slaby (R): 614-644-5085

Ryan Smith (R):  614-466-1366

Fred Strahorn (R):  614-466-1607

Andy Thompson (R):  614-644-8728