The Ohio State Senate just voted 23-9 to pass House Bill 99, with the intention of arming teachers in the classroom as their response to school shootings. The bill will now go back to the House of Representatives before it is ultimately presented to Governor DeWine, who is already in support of the bill. As a part of the bill, legislators want to decrease the number of training hours necessary to qualify, and also amend the training further in order to expedite arming educators. This is the latest step towards what may become the next wave in GOP legislation, which would be a major step in the WRONG direction.
This isn’t a rant or take on gun rights and laws in America, that is another conversation all together in my opinion. This is more about the already tremendous toll that educating our young people takes on our teachers, and how this bill will only add to that toll significantly. There are bills now at the House or Senate in states all across the country looking to address inequitable school funding, teacher/leader diversity, and so many other day to day operations of schools. The question then becomes, how did House Bill 99 jump ahead of other legislation to get to the front of the line and the stamp of approval from Governor DeWine?
As an overview, the public education in Ohio is average, to below average, depending on the metric being measured. As of the most recent data available via the U.S. News & World Report, Ohio ranks #25 in College Readiness, #38 in High School Graduation rate, with nearly half (47.7%) of their students currently living in poverty (urban, small town, or rural). There’s also a significant gap between Black, Hispanic, and White students in regards to proficiency in 4th and 8th grade:
As well as a significant gap in proficiency between economically disadvantaged students and not economically disadvantaged students:
As the data makes very clear, the state of Ohio has a lot to focus on in regards to public education around the state. Using their energy to enact policies that won’t significantly enhance the academic experiences of their students is negligent at best. Ohio is also one of 31 states in the US that don’t have visible and actionable educator diversity data according to Ed Trust. Ohio is also battling through funding issues that have spanned decades, an anti-Critical Race Theory sentiment, while a meaningful legislature like Senate Bill 89 languishes in the Senate.
It’s important to keep things in proper context at these important times. Educators and education policy activists have been hard at work over the years attempting to have educational inequity rectified at the policy level. Usually those bills are met with lackluster results, and don’t end up being signed into legislation, or if they are signed, they end up significantly altered. These bills usually address per pupil funding and allocation of funds, culturally relevant pedagogy, and increased educator diversity initiatives. Almost none of them have been greenlit as quick as Ohio’s House Bill 99, which is a huge problem.
As we move into election season and we gear up to vote for who will be representing us in elected positions around the country, it’s important to keep in mind the importance of having people in place that will help us move forward towards equity and diversity. Understand how to contact your Senator to advocate for policies that you believe in, as well as your Representative. If HB99 is any indication, we are in a bad place from a policy standpoint when giving teachers guns is regarded as more important than proper funding for schools or a curriculum that teaches history from a realistic perspective.