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Why I Sponsored Bill to Restructure Ohio's K-12 School System

By Bill Reineke
October 3, 2023
On The Record

Editor's Note: We submitted this column to the Toledo Blade three weeks ago. We never heard back from them.

When I first became a state representative 7 years ago, I preemptively met with my local school officials to discuss their issues and concerns for our children, including getting our kids active and engaged in their futures by investigating career options. 

Consequently, I became involved in education, never thinking that severe problems existed within the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). I was wrong.

I next sat down at ODE to learn how our education system works. There, I was stunned to discover Ohio’s abysmal remediation rate. 1 in 5 Ohio students need math or English remediation when they head to college, meaning these new adults do not have the skills they need to succeed in college or life. 

Equally surprising, I learned there are multiple tracks to graduate from high school in Ohio. Most students follow the traditional path—taking the SAT or ACT and going to college. This path is great for many of our students, but others who wish to go a different direction are not shown all of their options. In reality, most students are never even offered a more identifiable path to help them find their purpose. 

Coming from the business world, I knew there was an awkward relationship between education and business. Quickly, however, I learned there are far more disconnects in the system. There are several broken pieces, and these failures are having ramifications on our children’s lives and our state’s future economic outlook. 

The next generation is not ready for the jobs of tomorrow. Ohio is facing a massive talent gap. 75% of Ohio’s job growth will be in occupations that require a post-secondary degree credential. 58% of these jobs will require a traditional bachelor’s degree or higher. 

Intel, Honda, Ford, Google, and countless other companies need a well-prepared and educated workforce. Furthermore, by failing to recognize the occupations that can be started through a career tech education, we have stigmatized those jobs that are critical for our technological future. We need to prepare our kids for these extraordinary opportunities, and their education is the first step.

We are not connecting our students to their purpose or giving them the tools to thrive in their next steps.  And, no one is holding the system itself accountable for its failures to our kids, our taxpayers, and our future.

This is why I introduced Senate Bill 1, which was passed as part of our state budget bill this summer. Its goal is simple: to drive better outcomes in our students’ education and to ensure we hold the system accountable in its mission.

Senate Bill 1 reorganizes the Department of Education into the Department of Education and Workforce led by a Director. The Department’s focus is two-fold: primary and secondary education, and career technical education. 

Both our traditional and career-technical education divisions need to work together so our students can experience an “all of the above” approach to their future instead of a “one-size-fits-all” model.  With both of these divisions under one roof, we can promote communication and collaboration among schools, education leaders, and our businesses to ensure student success.

The Department’s director will be appointed by the Governor and subject to the advise and consent authority of the Ohio Senate, meaning your elected officials who represent you will have a direct hand in holding the Department’s leadership accountable. 

Maintaining the status quo has failed too many kids for too long. Our students deserve an education system that works for them.  A new department with new leadership at the helm can refocus us on our purpose: a better future for our children.