Don’t Let Ohio’s State School Board Back Out of the Strategic Plan

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Background Information

In recent weeks, there have been troubling indications that legislators have been meddling in Ohio’s State Board of Education and pushing an extreme agenda based on politics and disinformation instead of the educational needs of our children. The Board is responsible for determining the guidance and rules that must be followed for compliance with education legislation that is passed by the General Assembly. The Board also works with the Department of Education regarding policies and procedures as they are created or improved.

At last month’s Board meeting, a majority of the Board voted to backtrack on equity and antiracism in Ohio schools when they rescinded Resolution 20, a resolution that passed overwhelmingly (12-5) in July 2020. It has since become clear that leaders in the Ohio Senate majority orchestrated the reversal on equity by threatening appointed members of the Board with removal. On Friday, October 29, Board President Laura Kohler and Board member Eric Poklar were forced to resign by the Senate majority and Governor DeWine because they refused to vote to rescind the resolution on equity. 

This is an unprecedented situation that signals that legislators will continue to politicize the State Board of Education and treat it as a front in the culture war to the detriment of Ohio students.   

We expect that Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education: 2019-2024 will be attacked next. This plan was developed by parents, educators, and other stakeholders to create a state-level vision for the quality education that every student in Ohio deserves. Even though the Strategic Plan enjoys broad support throughout Ohio schools, it is coming under fire for talking about issues involving “equity”, “social-emotional learning”, and “supporting the whole child.” Due to a nationwide disinformation campaign attacking public schools, these terms are being twisted to have a negative meaning and opportunistic politicians are exploiting this to divide parents, teachers, and communities.

Call to Action

Make your voice heard by either testifying at the next State Board of Education meeting (Tuesday, Nov. 16) or by emailing the State Board of Education member in your district. (See details and talking points below)

Testifying at the next State Board meeting:

Members of the public are permitted to submit testimony to the Board of Education. You can submit testimony in advance by sending it in writing to Alex Goodman, Board Liaison, at Advance testimony will be included with the public record of the meeting whether you attend in person or not. You can also submit testimony on the day of the meeting by going to the Board meeting at 25 South Front Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

Emailing the Board Member for Your District:

You can identify your School Board District by identifying it on this map. Then select your Board member on this list. Below your Board member’s biography will be their email address and a map of that district. 
Your letter does not have to be long, but it is important to take the time to personalize it. Use the talking points and suggestions below to get started. 

Tips for Letter Writing and Testimony

  • Start by introducing yourself. Include where you live and how you are connected to this issue (parent, educator, school support staff, student, etc.).
  • Tell them that you support Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education: 2019-2024 and ask them to not backtrack on this plan. 
  • If needed, use some of the talking points below. You do not have to use them all.
  • Personalize the letter or testimony as much as you can. 
  • If you are writing to the following Board members, you can thank them for their support of Resolution 20, the resolution on equity and anti-racism: Meryl Johnson, Antoinette Miranda, Christina Collins, Michelle Newman. 

Talking Points

  • The State Board of Education should focus on the real problems that Ohio students and schools are facing. This includes: increased academic and social-emotional learning needs following the pandemic, increased behavior problems, substitute teacher shortages, teacher burnout, and underfunded schools. 
  • The Board should not backtrack on commitments they’ve made to Ohio students. The state strategic plan was approved by a broad consensus of School Board members, parents, educators, and other stakeholders. It details a vision of quality education for all Ohio students and a roadmap to achieve that vision. 
  • “Equity”,  “social-emotional learning”, and “supporting the whole child,” are all important concepts that are absolutely essential for a 21st century education. These terms have only developed a negative connotation because of a nationwide disinformation campaign that distorts what is actually happening in our classrooms. 
  • If you are an educator, talk about how or why “Equity”,  “social-emotional learning”, or “supporting the whole child,” is important in your work. 

Need more information? Email OFT's Director of Professional Issues, Deb Tully