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Lame duck Ohio state school board takes up LGBTQ resolution

Protestors outside the Ohio State Board of Education meeting on October 12, 2022
Karen Kasler
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Protestors outside the Ohio State Board of Education meeting on October 12, 2022

The Ohio State School Board’s executive committee is set to meet Monday morning to consider whether to support a controversial resolution that goes against a new federal policy requiring K-12 schools in Ohio to follow LGBTQ anti-discrimination policies in order to receive federal funding for things like school lunch programs.

But there’s one new factor now that could be considered in the decisions on whether to support a resolution at all and which one of three proposals should be adopted — the makeup of the school board will be different next year.

Two teachers’ unions focused on three of the five seats up for grabs last week because they wanted to defeat conservative members of the board. Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper said the members they targeted were pushing a political agenda that went against the well-developed strategic plan for K-12 schools.

“We saw that there were people on the state school board who were opposed to some of the fundamental principles in that plan such as equity, social-emotional learning, whole child learning, things that are really important to our teachers and to students in the state. So the three positions that were opened had been held by people who had been fighting those issues. So we looked for candidates to run who support public education and believe in the same, have the same values for public education that we have and those candidates were Katie Hofmann, Tom Jackson and Teresa Fedor," Cropper said.

Teresa Fedor, who had spent 22 years in the state legislature, resigned her position as an Ohio Senator on October 30. Before serving in politics, she was a teacher. and while in the legislature, she worked on or sponsored many bills involving K-12 education. Fedor said she has decided to go back to her roots and serve on the state school board after watching some members push what she calls a political agenda.

“They’re not following the constitution, they’re not taking care of business, and our children deserve better. Our citizens deserve better. They are just going off the cliff on politics and culture wars from Washington, D.C. and it’s hurting our communities," Fedor said.

Jenny Kilgore, one of the board members defeated at the ballot box, had been appointed to that position by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican. At a recent executive committee meeting, she spoke out in favor of a proposed resolution being considered that would push back against the Biden administration adding LGBTQ protections to Title IX and programs that operate under it.

“The Biden administration as part of the executive branch is overreaching its power and does not have the authority to make such changes. I unequivocally, as do the majority of my constituents, do not support the expansion of parameters of the federal version of Title IX," Kilgore said.

Kilgore and some others said they back a resolution that supports a bill in Ohio’s legislature to block trans athletes from participating on female sports teams. They supported Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost in his lawsuit, along with some other states, suing the Biden administration over the change.

One fear expressed by some on the board is that schools that receive federal dollars for school lunch programs will have to investigate claims of LGBTQ discrimination or risk losing those funds.

Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro, whose union also supported the three winning candidates, said he doesn’t know how the election might play into the decision about whether to back a resolution.

“I would hope that the majority of the state board would look at the election results and pull back and say ‘Maybe this isn’t what the voters want. Maybe they do want us focusing on how we set up all students for success rather than figure out ways to attack some of our most marginalized students’ That’s certainly what I would hope but we will see. But there may be some who says ‘hey, we are getting ready to leave the board’ and so they want to make sure they get some of these extreme measures passed before they go,” DiMauro said.

But the members backing these proposals don’t think they are extreme. The conservative members of the board have talked about it as a parental rights issue. They will be talking about it a lot at this last scheduled school board meeting of this year.

While members are talking about that, some Republicans are talking about making a change to require partisan designations next to names of school board members in the future.

One newly-elected Ohio Republican Party Central Committee member, Josh Culling, said on Twitter that he "thinks it's time to include party affiliation on the ballot for the state board of education candidates."

At this point, there aren't any pending bills in the Ohio Legislature that would do that. But Ohio lawmakers passed a law last year requiring that designation for judges and this November was the first time Ohio Supreme Court justices ran with their party affiliation. All three Republicans running for that court won.

Contact Jo Ingles at jingles@statehousenews.org.