COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – From changing the name of the Department of Education to blocking transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams, more than a dozen bills affecting K-12 education have been introduced in the Ohio statehouse.

Most bills are in their early stages – many haven’t been slated for a committee hearing – and encompass nearly all aspects of primary and secondary education, including curriculum requirements, absences, school choice scholarship programs and making veterans eligible to teach without licenses.

Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of education bills moving through the state legislature.

Bills affecting curriculum

H.B. 8: “The Parents’ Bill of Rights”

Introduced by Reps. D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron) and Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), the bill would require public schools to notify parents before teaching students about student health or otherwise showing them “sexually explicit content.” Parents would be able to request alternative assignments, and schools would be required to inform parents of any change in their child’s “mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being.”

In addition to requesting alternative assignments, parents would also be able to file a complaint about a teaching topic to the school district, which would have 30 days to resolve the issue. 

The bill has been referred to the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee and awaits an initial hearing.

S.B. 17: Capitalism in schools

S.B. 17 seeks to add content about capitalism to Ohio’s high school financial literacy curriculum requirement. 

The bill, introduced by Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Maineville), outlines specific subjects that must be taught when teaching capitalism, including that market prices are the “only way to convey so much constantly changing information about the supply of goods and services” and that “societies that embrace the free market often embrace political and personal freedom as well.”

The Senate Education Committee will have a hearing and possible vote on S.B. 17 at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

H.B. 63: Conflict resolution in schools

Newly introduced by Rep. Latyna Humphrey (D-Franklin County), H.B. 63 would require age-appropriate courses on conflict management be taught from kindergarten through 12th grade at public and charter schools. Courses on conflict management would include information on how to handle conflicts and resolve them amicably, mediation, how to respect people from different backgrounds or with different opinions, and how interpersonal conflict is correlated with violence.

Teachers who teach conflict management would have to undergo training every three years, which would apply to licensing requirements for continued professional development.

The bill awaits a committee assignment.

Bills affecting attendance

H.B. 38: Mental health days

Under a new bill, K-12 students would be eligible for up to three excused absences for mental health each academic year. Introduced by Reps. Willis Blackshear (D-Dayton) and Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park), the bill allows school districts to develop policies on mental health days, including the option to establish an “in-school mental health program” for students to attend when requesting such an absence.

After a student requests a mental health day, the district would be allowed to refer that student to school health services, including psychological counseling. Students would not be required to provide proof of mental illness or another condition in order to take a mental health day, and they would be entitled to complete missed work without penalty.

School districts would be able to identify days ineligible for mental health days off, such as standardized testing dates, but only with notice at the start of the academic year.

The bill has been referred to the Primary and Secondary Education Committee and awaits a first hearing.

S.B. 49: “The R.E.D. Act” 

The Religious Expression Days Act, introduced by Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester), would require public schools to grant up to three excused absences to students, teachers and staff for religious reasons.

Students who take days off for religious or spiritual purposes would be provided accommodations, including for exams that fall on holidays or otherwise interfere with religious traditions or events. They would have to provide teachers with written notice of specific dates of absence within the first two weeks of the academic year.

Such absences wouldn’t count against school employees’ sick leave, but employees would have to present a signed statement to the district’s board of education to justify using religious expression days. The state superintendent would provide a list of major religious holidays for school districts to post on their websites alongside an explanation of the religious expression days policy.

The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to have a hearing on the bill at 3 p.m. Tuesday.

School choice, teacher eligibility and other bills

S.B. 14: Expanding veteran teacher eligibility

Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction) seeks to make it easier for veterans to teach without licenses.

Under S.B. 14, an honorably discharged veteran who served at least four years of active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces can teach without a teaching license if any of the following apply:

  • A former commanding officer submits a letter confirming the veteran’s qualifications to teach
  • The veteran earned a master training specialist certification from the navy
  • The veteran was a training officer or lead instructor while in the military
  • The veteran served as a noncommissioned officer, a warrant officer or a senior enlisted person

Hoagland introduced a similar bill in October, but it required veterans to hold bachelor’s degrees. S.B. 13 would require veterans to have completed 60 college credits with at least a 2.5-grade point average.

People seeking teaching allowances under this bill would be subject to a criminal background check and would be supervised by a teacher with at least three years’ experience for the first two years of employment.

The bill has been referred to the Education Committee and awaits a first hearing.

S.B. 11: “The Parent Education Freedom Act”

Introduced by Sen. Sandra O’Brien (R-Ashtabula), the bill would expand eligibility under the existing EdChoice Scholarship program and expand the current homeschool tax credit nearly tenfold.

Under the current EdChoice program, only low-income students or those in low-performing districts are eligible for a state-funded voucher to offset the cost of attending a nonpublic school of their choice. O’Brien’s proposal would open eligibility to all K-12 students in the state and would raise the homeschool tax credit from $250 to $2,000.

O’Brien introduced a version of this bill toward the end of the previous General Assembly, but it never had a committee hearing.

S.B. 11 has been referred to the Education Committee and awaits a first hearing.

H.B. 11: “The Backpack Scholarship Program”

The Backpack Scholarship Program would provide funds to qualified students to use for tuition and other expenses at chartered and fully private schools of their choice. Intended to replace the Educational Choice Scholarship Pilot Program and Pilot Project Scholarship Program, the bill would permanently allocate state funds for the state treasurer to disperse into savings accounts that students must apply for each year.

According to the legislation text, students can use the funds to “enroll in the educational environment that they and their parents determine is the best fit for them.” The list of eligible schooling options is wide-reaching and includes traditional schools, online learning programs, some tutoring services, standardized testing fees and college preparatory courses, textbooks and school supplies, and educational services such as speech-language, physical and occupational therapies.

Students eligible for existing school scholarship programs, including the autism scholarship program and EdChoice, will be automatically eligible for the Backpack Scholarship Program but must apply to receive the funds.

The bill has been referred to the Primary and Secondary Education Committee and awaits a first hearing.

H.B. 46: Adding employment to teacher’s license

Under the proposed legislation, people applying for or renewing their teaching licenses must include the school district or school where they work. Proposed by Rep. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond), the bill also requires the state board of education to notify school districts within 90 days of any disciplinary action the board takes against a teacher.

Other bills:

  • H.B. 6: Dubbed the “Save Women’s Sports Act,” the bill would ban transgender girls from participating in girls’ sports.
  • H.B. 12, S.B. 1: Introduced in both chambers is legislation to move most of the State Board of Education’s powers under the governor’s purview and to rename the Department of Education to the Department of Education and Workforce. S.B. 1 will have a hearing and possible vote out of the Education Committee at 3 p.m. Tuesday.
  • H.B. 47: Require automated external defibrillators be placed in gyms, swimming pools, and playing fields and that school staff members be trained to use AEDs.