In October 2017, I wrote an article about what was referred to as the “Public School Deregulation Bill,” authored by Senator Matt Huffman from Lima. Prior to authoring his bill, Senator Huffman had identified 100 legislative mandates that cost time and money and did not help educators teach kids. That’s right. One hundred. So, he constructed a law to get rid of them.
In my column, I wrote that the bill had overwhelming support from Ohio’s educators, who were giddy at the prospect of worthless laws that asked time and money going away, but that I was very skeptical any time a lawmaker tells us he or she believes in deregulating our lives. My cynicism about Senator Huffman’s law was based on the fact that for years educators had been assured by other lawmakers that they were working hard to create new laws that would undue the damage they had created with their previous laws. In other words, I had no faith that the same people who had authored poorly conceived laws before had suddenly acquired the wisdom to write better laws, nor did I believe they had any real interest in doing so.
It turns out I was right. Legislators continued to do anything but deregulate education, and six months after my initial article, in a column titled “The Myth of Deregulation,” I wrote that the same members of the General Assembly that had signed off on the deregulation bill had written 58 new education bills, all of which placed new regulations on schools.
In other words, legislators weren’t interested in deregulating the profession at all. Senator Huffman’s bill was nothing but a smoke screen, and to this day Ohio’s lawmakers continue to author poorly constructed education bills at breakneck speed. Some are not passed, but many are.
Since the “Deregulation Bill” was enacted, legislation has been introduced on state mandated student testing; teacher and principal evaluations (again); paraprofessional certification; school takeover by the state; state report cards for schools; teacher licensure; how schools must contact parents about their children’s absences; student discipline; staff in-service training; specific classes kids must take to graduate; whether schools should have valedictorians; what schools must do to student attendance; graduation and testing requirements; and school safety, to name just a few.
Thank goodness they believe in deregulation!
Members of our legislature continue to write bills that are full of verbs like “requires,” “imposes,” “specifies,” “establishes,” “eliminates,” “incorporates,” and “stipulates.” Not one of of those terms has anything to do with deregulating anything.
Of course, they don’t stop their takeover with education. They have inserted themselves into every facet of our lives. They even tell us what kind of car seats our children must ride in, how long we must use them, where our kids are allowed to sit in our car, even the direction they must face, because, obviously, we are too stupid to transport our own children safely from Point A to Point B. In fact, the only explanation for the mountains of legislation that tell us what we can and cannot do is that lawmakers think we are incapable of making our own decisions.
Am I the only person who finds that insulting?
Of course, every new mandate is accompanied by a justification for it. They always have a reason, and some even make some sense, except for the part that government has no right to dictate every aspect of our lives. In fact this country was created on that notion.
This intrusion has been so gradual, constant, and pervasive that we have become numb to it, and that is what makes willingly ceding our rights to those in power so dangerous. The control they possess today will never be enough tomorrow. They have proven that.
If you need further proof that nothing is off limits to the long arm of lawmakers, look no further than Senator Sandra Williams recently proposed Senate Bill 218, which would prohibit schools from starting their student day before 8:30 a.m. Her proposal follows proposals by a couple of other legislators within the last couple of years that would have prohibited schools from beginning before Labor Day.
Apparently, deciding when to start school is another decision we local yokels are incapable of making.
Senator Williams’ primary justification for her proposal is student safety (that one always works), although there is no evidence that suggests starting school at 8:30 is any safer for kids than starting it at, say, 7:30, or 7:45, or 8 a.m.
California lawmakers have enacted a similar bill, but they based theirs on research that suggests teenagers need more sleep. Apparently, that law is necessary because it is out of the question for parents to establish rules that would allow their teenagers to actually get more sleep.
The fact is, legislators who create new laws can always justify their intrusion into our lives, but that’s not really the point anymore. The real question is how willing are we to stand for it?
The answer for me is not very willing at all.
Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.