Legislative Watch – April 1, 2022

Redistricting Update:  The Fight for Fair Maps Continues

The Ohio Redistricting Commission has passed three versions of district maps for the Ohio General Assembly that have been rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court. It appears that could soon increase to four.

Previous plans, passed by Republicans on the Commission without Democratic support, were ruled to have been in violation of the 2015 Constitutional amendment passed by Ohio voters aimed at ending partisan gerrymandering.  The Court ruled that the plans unduly favored Republicans, in violation of the Constitution. The Court ordered the Redistricting Commission to start over and come up with a new plan by the end of day on Monday, March 28.

Things appeared to be somewhat different this time. The Commission brought in two independent mapmakers to work on drawing maps that comply with the Constitution and the Court’s order. Their work was streamed live to the public on the internet. Governor DeWine hinted that he would show some leadership and publicly stated that they would follow the Court’s order. All of that proved to be an illusion.

Hours before the Court’s deadline, the Republican majority on the Commission opted to jettison the work of the independent mapmakers they hired. Instead, they voted on a plan with minor tweaks to the last plan that they had passed—one that has already been ruled unconstitutional. Unsurprisingly, the Court is now asking members of the Commission why they shouldn’t be held in contempt.

It appears that the May 3rd primary election will go forward for offices other than the Ohio House and Ohio Senate. A challenge to the Congressional districts that were adopted by the Redistricting Commission will not be heard in time to prevent them from being used in the 2022 election.

Federal judges may ultimately rule on when a primary for General Assembly candidates will be held and what district boundaries will be used. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio reserves the right to intervene, perhaps by moving the primary to August 2nd, if the state doesn’t reach a resolution by April 20th.

OEA VP Wensing Testifies in Support of Bill to Eliminate Student Retention Under TGRG

On Tuesday, March 29, 2022, OEA Vice President Jeff Wensing testified as a proponent of House Bill 497. The bill seeks to eliminate the retention provision of the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Further, the bill would reduce the number of times that the state-mandated 3rd grade ELA state achievement test is administered.

OEA supports House Bill 497 because legislative policies adopted by our members oppose using standardized test scores to make high-stakes decisions about students. OEA also supports the reduction of testing in the bill as it will help to restore some time for teaching and learning in the classroom.

Click here to read Vice President Wensing’s full testimony. Several OEA members also provided testimony in support of the bill: Jennifer Bindus (Aurora), Sean McCullough (Licking Heights), Maureen Knostman (Dublin), and Michelle Cooper (Dublin).

To urge your state representative to support HB 497, click here.

HB 583: Extends Temporary Licensure of Substitute Teachers; Includes $338 Million Federal Funds for School Lunches

The Ohio House of Representatives passed HB 583 this week. The bill now moves to the Ohio Senate for consideration. HB 583 does the following:

  • Extends a temporary law measure through the 2023-24 school year that permits an individual to obtain a one-year substitute teaching license if the following conditions are met: 1. Meets the district’s or school’s own education requirements (rather than those prescribed by the State Board of Education); 2. Is deemed to be of good moral character; and 3. Successfully completes a criminal records check. This temporary standard for licensing substitute teachers has been in place since the 2020-21 school year due to Covid-related staffing challenges that exacerbated pre-existing shortages of substitute teachers.
  • Requires the chairpersons and ranking members of the Primary and Secondary Education committees of the House and Senate to form a study committee to address the shortage of substitute teachers and report its findings and present them to the House and Senate Primary and Secondary Education committees by October 30, 2022.
  • Appropriates $338 million of federal funds for FY 2022 for the National School Lunch Program.