Ohio Lawmakers Mull Appointed State School Board
Gov. George V. Voinovich's effort to expand his influence over Ohio education policy by gaining the power to appoint members of the state school board has begun to move through the legislature.
The Governor's proposal, which was the subject of hearings before the Senate Education Committee last week, would end the current practice of electing board members, while reducing their number from 21 to 9.
Although the superintendent of education would continue to be formally chosen by the board, the change sought by Mr. Voinovich also would presumably give his office a greater voice in the selection of the state's chief school official.
The Republican Governor's proposal is expected to receive strong support in the gop-controlled Senate.
The bill is opposed by some state education groups, however, and leaders of the Democrat-majority House have said they were hesitant about increasing Mr. Voinovich's power at the expense of the voters.
Ronald V. Gerberry, a Democrat from Austintown who is chairman of the House Education Committee, said he would "at least listen" to the Governor's proposal if the Senate passes it. But he added that he did not feel the legislature "should be making a decision to take away the right of people to elect a public official."
Such changes, Mr. Gerberry said, should be made through a referendum in which voters could agree to give up their right to vote for school-board members.
Under current law, one panelist is elected from each of the state's 21 Congressional districts.
'Rolling the Wheels of Change'
In proposing changes in the state board, Governor Voinovich said, "I believe the governor needs to be in a stronger position to take a leadership role in primary and secondary education. And, to do so, the governor needs greater input into the selection of the state superintendent."
The Senate measure allows the state superintendent "a degree of independence, but still gives the governor much greater authority," Mr. Voinovich added.
During his campaign last fall, Mr. Voinovich had complained that the governor is often held accountable for the state's schools even though most education decisions are made by the elected board and a superintendent who is responsible to the board.
The Governor this month stressed that he had had a good relationship with Franklin B. Walter, who recently resigned after 14 years as superintendent. But he argued that the vacancy in the superintendency and the fact that the state must re4draw its Congressional districts under the 1990 U.S. Census create an opportunity "to start rolling the wheels of change in order to heighten accountability."
The proposed changes were modeled after the current method of selecting the state higher-education board.
Mr. Voinovich said the reforms in his bill were urged by the Governor's Education Management Council.
The Buckeye Association of School Administrators and the Ohio School Boards Association are opposed, however, to the proposal.
"An elected board of education is representative of the people," asserted Roderick Rice, executive director of the b.a.s.a., who added that the seats on an appointed board could become positions of political patronage.