School Board Takes Next Step in Eliminating ‘Five of Eight’ Rule

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Protestors opposing a change to the “5 of 8” rule outside ODE headquarters. / Andy Chow

The state school board says it’s making changes to a rule that covers positions like music and art teachers along with staff like social workers and school nurses.

Several groups believe this latest step is dangerous reform.

 

Dozens of people stood outside the Ohio Department of Education headquarters—shouting in support of the state’s so-called “five of eight” rule.

It says for every 1,000 elementary students, schools should have at least five of these eight positions: art, phys ed, and music teachers, counselors, nurses, librarians, social workers, and visiting teachers.

But the state school board has voted to change that rule—basically taking out the required ratios and giving more control to the local level.

Supporters of “five of eight” say without the requirements, districts will be quick to slash art programs and other services the next time they’re in a budget crunch.

Patti O’Toole is a parent of two kids at Columbus City Schools. She said cutting programs like art, music and phys ed would be a big loss for her children.

“They lose a motivation for going to school,” she said. “They lose an opportunity to develop fuller intelligences. They lose an opportunity to learn about the world in really profound ways.”

The board’s new rule proposal says the districts will get to decide how many education service personnel they need based on the values of the community. Board Member Ron Rudduck—who supports the change—is confident that the arts will remain in the classroom.

“I’m familiar with a lot of people a lot of superintendents throughout the state,” Rudduck said. “And I just think districts are going to do what’s right for kids.”

Scott DiMauro disagrees with the change. He’s with the Ohio Education Association—the state’s largest teachers union. According to DiMauro—the new language weakens the protection for these specialty positions.

“It’s broader than the current rule,” he said. “You could say it’s more inclusive than the current rule but it’s certainly more vague than the current rule.”

The proposal passed with only a handful of board members voting against it. Supporters of the change say it’s important to give local school administrators more flexibility.

Stephanie Dodd—one of the board members who opposed the change – says she believes giving too much control to the local leaders may not be best decision for Ohio’s youth.

“I do feel that’s my responsibility as a board member an elected board member that I’m voting through things that are in the best interest of the students and my district and I don’t think that leaving something like that 100 percent in local control is in their best interest,” said Dodd.

DiMauro said one consolation in the final proposal that passed is that it still requires those specialties to have the appropriate certifications and qualifications in order to work in the schools.

Rudduck added that it’s still state law to have music, art and phys ed teachers in schools—it’s just the specific ratios that aren’t laid out.

The board’s change must now go through the state’s official process that reviews rules. That includes more public hearings, a vote by a legislative body, and then a final vote by the board. That last vote could happen next spring.

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