Photo by Graham Stokes
In a recent turn of events, the Ohio House has effectively derailed Senate Bill 83, a contentious legislation aimed at overhauling the Ohio education system. This development is being hailed as a victory for advocates of public education in the state.
Bill 83 Sought to Bring Significant Changes to the College
Senate Bill 83 sought to bring significant changes to the college system in Ohio. Spearheaded by Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) and supported by some Republicans, the bill focused on what they deemed as “free speech” in the academic setting. It proposed prohibiting public universities in Ohio from exhibiting “bias” in classrooms and limiting the scope of what could be considered “controversial topics” in educational curricula.
The bill faced widespread criticism, with concerns particularly raised about the elimination of the tenure system. Dr. Pranav Jani, an OSU professor and president of the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, expressed relief at the potential demise of the bill, stating, “We’re glad to see that the ‘brain-drain’ bill may be on its way out.”
The Bill Faced Considerable Opposition
The unexpected turn of events came as a shock to bill sponsor Sen. Jerry Cirino, who believed there was significant support for the legislation in the House. However, Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) made it clear that the bill faced considerable opposition within the caucus, citing concerns from both sides of the aisle.
“I think there are a lot of concerns with that bill from both sides of the aisle, frankly,” remarked Stephens.
The unexpected announcement left many, including Higher Education Committee Chair Tom Young (R-Washington Twp.), surprised. Cirino suggested that the speaker might be influenced by political dynamics, hinting at Stephens’ relationship with Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington).
President Expressed his Commitment to Continue Fighting for the Bill
Despite this setback, Cirino, along with Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), expressed their commitment to continue fighting for the bill. However, Huffman hinted at a less accommodating stance in future negotiations.
“When you make concessions and the folks who say ‘if you make these concessions, I’ll vote for it’ but they don’t — well, then the concessions don’t end up getting made in the future,” warned Huffman.
The bill is scheduled for another committee hearing in the Ohio House on Wednesday, leaving the future of Senate Bill 83 uncertain. The ongoing dynamics within the Ohio legislature and the broader implications of the proposed legislation underscore the complex challenges faced by policymakers and educators in shaping the future of the state’s higher education system.