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Kasich Power Grab Could Give Unelected Bureaucrats Almost Unlimited Power Over Education

Ohio Governor John Kasich and the Ohio legislature are fast-tracking a bill that that would consolidate nearly all educational departments into one unelected executive agency controlled by the governor. It's a giant power grab by Kasich and Ohio Republicans, who have become frustrated by their inability to control the Ohio Department of Education and the elected members of the State Board of Education.

HB 512, currently under consideration by the Ohio House, seeks to combine the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), Ohio Department of Higher Education, and Ohio Department of Workforce Transformation into a single new department organized under the governor. In addition, the elected State Board of Education (SBE) would be stripped of most its powers to promulgate rules related to K-12 education. The current board, which has 11 regionally-elected members and eight at-large members appointed by the governor, has purview over a wide variety of education issues, including standards, assessment selection, proficiency determination, state report cards, teacher/student ratios, private and homeschool regulations, and public school operating standards.

"What I really want... I want to be able to run the Department of Education," Kasich said at an Associated Press forum in early February, signaling his support for the move. "I don't think we should have this elected school board." Instead, he said the governor should be in charge of education in the state.

"We have no clue who these people are and they're running education policy," Kasich said. "And I'm governor and I can't tell them what to do. It's nuts."

That's the way democracy works, John.

In her written testimony to the Government Accountability and Oversight (GAO) Committee, Melanie Elsey, legislative director for the American Policy Roundtable and legislative liaison for Christian Home Educators of Ohio, said that the new agency is "enormous in terms of its scope and power." In fact, she said, there are several sections of the 2,430-page bill (which she read in its entirety) that "provide unlimited scope of authority for the appointed director and unlimited size of the agency itself."

The most egregious change, she warned, "is the transfer of authority from our State Board of Education to one person appointed by whomever the governor may be." As a result, "every four to eight years the focus and direction of [the agency's] broad scope of power can change, which is not conducive to stability," Elsey said.

If HB 512–which was (inexplicably) assigned to the GAO Committee rather than the Education Committee—becomes law, the elected school board's control over education would be transferred into the hands of a single individual, appointed by Gov. Kasich. That individual would also have the power to appoint other bureaucrats to impose the governor's will on the people, setting the stage for a massive bureaucracy.