The Ohio Board of Education voted April 13 to end the state’s stipulation that school districts hire at least five of eight specialty positions for each school.
The so-called “5 of 8 rule” has been in place in Ohio since the mid-1970s. It requires schools to hire for positions including librarians, music teachers, social workers, nurses and physical education teachers. The Republican-led Board of Education has been mulling removal of the rule since last year.
The rule change has been hotly debated among educators and officials. Opponents say it will mean students in many low-income schools will no longer be guaranteed a school nurse or arts, music and other important humanities education. Boosters of the rule change say it allows local school districts more autonomy with how they spend their budgets.
The board heard hours of testimony and debate before its 11-7 vote April 13. Pushback against the rule change came from board members and those in the community. Many opposed to the rule say it will incentivize poor schools to cut positions that don’t directly boost schools’ standardized test scores.
“If we eliminate the 5 of 8 rule we are not going to impact the schools that have the means to hire art teachers, et cetera,” said board member A.J. Wagner of Dayton at the meeting, according to the Columbus Dispatch. “We are going to impact the schools with high numbers of minority students, high numbers of blacks, high numbers of Hispanics.”
But advocates for the rule change say that school superintendents and other officials on the local level are the most qualified to make staffing choices at their schools. Some school superintendents showed up at the meeting to testify that they agreed with removing the rule, while other education administrators said they oppose it.
Statewide school administration groups initially pushed for the rule change. Many, however, asked the board to focus on what they called the overarching problem behind the controversy — the paucity of funds available to many public schools across the state.