By The Associated Press
Cleveland Plain Dealer. May 26, 2023.
Editorial: Attempted legislative takeover of state universities is misguided and dangerous
State Sen. Jerry Cirino of Kirtland, prime sponsor of Senate Bill 83 — the so-called Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act — says the bill is a product of extensive research and the need to create more intellectual diversity in the state’s colleges and universities. He calls it “an urgently needed course correction for higher education in Ohio.”
But Cirino has revealed his disdain for intellectual diversity by calling the bill’s critics “clowns” and exposed his own narrow ideological motivation by accusing the state’s well-respected universities of using a “‘woke’ agenda” in faculty hiring.
Substitute SB 83 is a dangerous overreach — an attempted state legislative takeover of university hiring, course selection, tenure decisions, and governance.
Instead of “enhancing” higher education in the state, it would put in charge lawmakers and others who see university education through the same radical worldview as Cirino.
Cirino, 71, spent more than four decades in business, including turning around underperforming firms, before winning a seat as a Lake County commissioner in 2016 and then election to the state Senate in 2020.
He’s already had to amend SB 83 to fix some of its broad dictates — for instance, language barring segregation and discrimination that the American Civil Liberties Union noted in testimony would have outlawed same-sex dormitories and sports teams, fraternities and sororities, not to mention such organizations at Ohio State University as “the Association of Women Dentists, the Latino Law Students Association and the Christian Graduate Student Alliance.”
Cirino’s substitute bill also fixed language preventing required diversity, equity and inclusion training when it became evident that would bar federal money and grants, cleveland.com’s Laura Hancock notes.
He also took out language that would have included private colleges and universities in Ohio taking state money in some of the bill’s requirements. Hancock noted that, “Many private schools that are affiliated with faith organizations said that it would be hard to espouse their religious” beliefs while still complying with the bill.
Other overly rigid requirements were amended, too, but the changes aren’t enough.
The bill still seeks to micromanage what subjects are taught, how faculty are disciplined, and how OSU and the state’s other universities and community colleges govern themselves.
The dangers were clear to three GOP state senators who broke ranks May 17 to join the chamber’s Democrats in voting “No” on Substitute SB 83, as the Senate sent the bill to the House on a 21-10 vote.
Voting against the bill were state Sens. Nathan H. Manning of North Ridgeville, son of a longtime former teacher; Louis W. Blessing III of the Cincinnati area; and Michele Reynolds of the Columbus area.
There’s no doubt that college campuses tend to skew liberal — maybe, in part, a reflection of the youthful idealism of many students, or the outlook of those who choose to teach over more remunerative professions. That’s no reason to turn Ohio’s universities into micromanaged, authoritarian outposts.
If the narrow ideological underpinnings of Cirino’s aims in SB 83 weren’t already clear, his proposed Senate Bill 117, introduced May 3 with state Sen. Rob McColley, a Republican from Northwest Ohio, makes it obvious.
SB 117 seeks to use $13 million in taxpayer money to set up “independent academic units” at OSU and the University of Toledo, with their own bylaws, hiring and tenure authority.
The proposed Salmon P. Chase Center for Civics, Culture, and Society at OSU would be dedicated to “teaching and research in the historical ideas, traditions, and texts that have shaped the American constitutional order and society,” as the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission summarized it.
Chase, who died in 1873, was a noted anti-slavery activist, former Ohio governor and senator before becoming the sixth chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s likely he would have declined this naming honor.
The proposed Institute of American Constitutional Thought and Leadership at the University of Toledo would aim, as the LSC summarizes it, for “the pursuit of creating and disseminating knowledge about American constitutional thought and to form future leaders of the legal profession through research, scholarship, teaching, collaboration, and mentorship.”
But indoctrination, not scholarship, appears to be the real motivation of all these measures.
The Ohio House should be where SB 83 goes to die — and SB 117, too, if it makes it that far. For the sake of its own future, Ohio needs to build on the academic excellence of its publicly supported colleges and universities, not crater it.
Columbus Dispatch. May 22, 2023.
Editorial: Puppet masters pulling lawmakers strings when it comes to guns in Ohio
“Cities fighting gun violence have found foes in state leaders who do not seem to understand or care about the concerns of people in big urban centers,” the Dispatch Editorial Board writes
A common notion is that we are a very divided state in an even more divided nation.
Yet an astounding 85% of Ohioans — conservatives and gun owners included — support expanding background checks for 18- to 21-year-old gun buyers, according to the fall 2022 Baldwin Wallace University Ohio Pulse Poll.
A third support “red flag” laws which would allow the police to temporarily remove firearms from owners believed to pose a threat. The poll found that 79% are in favor of raising the minimum age to buy an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle from 18 to age 21.
As the Baldwin Wallace poll and the ones that preceded it show, Ohioans are on common ground when it comes to certain sensible gun restrictions.
You would not know that from the illogical and dangerous gun regulations that have emerged from our Statehouse in recent years.
The gun lobbyists behind the curtain
The disconnect between what Ohioans want and what lawmakers give us makes sense when you understand who is pulling the strings in this state.
As the latest installment of the Columbus Dispatch series “Under Fire” reveals and as in the “Wizard of Oz,” an unseen force is calling the shots from behind the curtain in Ohio, and that force doesn’t represent the will of the people.
Ohio lawmakers are more interested in pleasing powerful and persuasive pro-gun groups like Buckeye Firearms Association and Ohio Gun Owners than they are the Ohioans they swore an oath to serve.
Due to the influence of gun lobbyists, Ohio — a diverse state with large urban centers, suburbs and small rural communities — now ranks only after Texas and Georgia among the nation’s 10 most populous states on Gun & Ammo magazine’s score card of Best States for Gun Owners.
The Buckeye State ranked 22 overall.
What Ohioans get
The shift away from what the public overwhelmingly wants has ramped up in the years since Ohio’s deadliest mass shooting in modern history where nine people were killed in Dayton’s Oregon District on Aug. 4, 2019.
— Against the objection of a list of groups that included Ohio prosecutors, Ohio Fraternal Order of Police and a coalition of Ohio mayors, members of the state’s uber gerrymandered legislature approved, and Gov. Mike DeWine signed the state’s “stand your ground” law in 2021.
— Last year, a bill dropping the training hours a teacher needs to be armed in school from 728 hours to about 24 became law.
— A law that eliminated the requirement for concealed carry gun permits for Ohio residents 21 and older also became effective in 2022.
The puppet masters were pleased.
“This is a day that will go down in history…,” Buckeye Firearms Association Director Dean Rieck said in a statement released at the time. “This is a great moment for Ohio and for those who wish to more fully exercise their Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
That same year, a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that states with relaxed carry and conceal laws not only experience a 10% increase in firearm assaults per 100,000 people, but also have a nearly 13% increase in police shootings.
The push to weaken Ohio’s gun laws continues.
Senate Bill 293 would amend the Ohio Revised Code to prohibit requiring fees or firearms liability insurance to possess firearms.
Introduced earlier this year and entitled the “Enact the Second Amendment Preservation Act,” House Bill 51 would block Ohio’s local governments and police agencies from enforcing some federal firearm acts, laws or executive orders.
A judge in March found a similar Missouri law unconstitutional after the federal government sued.
“A state cannot simply declare federal laws invalid,” Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Division, said as part of a press release about that law. “This act makes enforcement of federal firearms laws difficult and strains the important law enforcement partnerships that help keep violent criminals off the street.”
Battle of Ohio
Lawmakers from Ohio’s largest cities – Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland – don’t have much power at the Statehouse. Republicans from smaller cities and towns hold most of the top leadership positions in both chambers of the Statehouse.
Cities fighting gun violence have found foes in state leaders who do not seem to understand or care about the concerns of people in big urban centers.
Local lawmakers are punching up at lobbyists and state elected officials when it comes to fighting gun violence.
Last month, Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gormley halted enforcement of the gun-related ordinances Columbus City Council passed in December that includes a ban on certain firearm magazines of 30 or more bullets and requirements for safe gun storage.
The judge’s ruling follows a battle between Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost over the gun restrictions and a state law barring municipal gun regulations — Ohio Revised Code Section 9.68, the state’s so-called “Right to bear arms — challenge to law.”
The city had seemingly won until Gormley’s ruling on a challenge from the right-leaning Buckeye Institute stopped the gun ordinance in its tracks. A tiny portion of Columbus is in Delaware County.
Klein’s office file a new lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court Thursday against the state.
“State officials continue to intentionally make it harder for police to do their job and for the city to take the actions we know will promote responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence in our neighborhoods,” he said.
It’s an inconceivable fight because at least part of what Columbus wants is in line with what the vast majority of Ohioans and Americans desire.
Just two weeks before the 2019 shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, a survey by APM Research Lab — the research and analysis arm of American Public Media — found that nearly eight in 10 Americans support requiring guns be stored with a lock in place.
Mandatory locked gun storage was desired regardless of political affiliation.
Nearly seven in 10 Republicans supported locked gun mandates, compared with nearly eight in 10 independents and nearly nine in 10 Democrats, APM found.
Two-thirds of gun owners nationwide supported mandated locked gun storage. There are many things that divide Ohioans. Stronger, sensible gun laws are not among them.
Gun lobbyists shouldn’t be the ones calling the shots in Ohio. We need lawmakers brave enough to protect and stand up for us no matter where we live.
It is time to remind legislators that they work for Ohioans and not the lobbyists behind the curtain pulling their strings.
Toledo Blade. May 26, 2023.
Editorial: Allow voucher suit
The state auditor, acting on behalf of his political allies in the General Assembly, is using the power of his office to intimidate school district boards of education from pursuing an anti-voucher lawsuit.
Auditor Keith Faber has requested all the school districts to inform him of how much money they have spent on lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of laws passed by the Ohio General Assembly.
The auditor gives no substantive reason for his ask, except that he has the authority to do it.
The purpose of this request is clearly to chill the opposition to legislation attempting to expand the Ed Choice school voucher program.
The school districts that brought the lawsuit say the request is “contemptuous and criminal behavior” and have asked Ohio Attorney General David Yost to order Mr. Faber to rescind the request.
The group of school boards, Vouchers Hurt Ohio, noted the request was done by the state auditor on behalf of Senate President Matt Huffman (R., Lima).
The school districts have told Senator Huffman, a longtime advocate for school choice, they intend to subpoena him about his “end goal.” Mr. Huffman’s attorneys are arguing against it.
And now Mr. Faber is loaning his power to help Mr. Huffman avoid answering the questions.
A lawyer speaking for the coalition of more than 100 school districts said that the purpose of the information request is to “intimidate the school districts exercising their right to help pay for this litigation.”
He’s right, and Mr. Faber should stand down.
We would not be surprised if the Ohio General Assembly tries to pass a bill prohibiting Ohio school boards from bringing lawsuits against Ohio laws. Running roughshod over the rights of local and district governments to do their jobs is a favorite tactic of Ohio’s General Assembly.
School boards oversee the public schools in their jurisdictional boundaries and are rightfully jealous of the funding they receive from the state. They fear that an expanded voucher law, known as the “backpack bill”, will divert even more money away from traditional public schools to private schools.
Toledo, Sylvania, Swanton, Washington Local, and Bowling Green school boards are among the litigants.
It is the boards’ responsibility to protect their schools and they have the right to take their fight to the courts to challenge the constitutionality of these laws.
Whether Ohio families have the right to direct state school spending to the schools they want their children to attend, and whether that spending is unconstitutionally crossing a line into state support of religious education are questions that deserve more legal exploration, not less
The suit, filed in January, 2022, in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, contends that Ohio is constitutionally obligated to fund one system of “common” schools and has no authority to give taxpayer dollars to private schools. It asks for a permanent injunction blocking the spending of state money on vouchers.
Ohioans benefit from having the voucher program reviewed for constitutionality.
Mr. Faber and Mr. Huffman should back off from their unseemly power play and let the legal process go forward.
Youngstown Vindicator. May 26, 2023.
Editorial: Ohio must do better for our children
Lawmakers — well, most of them, anyway — are working to do better for Ohio’s children. A recent study suggests there still is much to do, at least when it comes to our preschool-aged students. Rutgers University’s Institute for Early Education Research studied early childhood education across the country, and found the Buckeye State ranks 36th for preschool enrollment at age 4, with 10% enrolled; and 27th for those at age 3, with 2% enrolled.
Ohio also ranks 36th for state spending and 42nd for all reported spending. Ohio’s state spending per child enrolled in preschool was down $332 in 2022 from the previous school year.
“Ohio should assess its support for preschool against neighbors and other states that provide much stronger support for access, quality standards, and funding per child. Ohio’s young children deserve no less than others,” W. Steven Barnett Ph.D., NIEER’s senior co-director, said, according to the Ohio Capital Journal.
We also are meeting only five of the 10 quality standards benchmarks set by the study: early learning and development standards; curriculum supports; teacher specialized training; screening and referral; and continuous quality improvement system.
To be fair to those in Columbus, there does seem to be a fresh sense of urgency for improving education and our children’s chance at success here. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services will get $48 million in federal funding over the next three years for improving access to early childhood care and education.
But the Rutgers study must serve as a reminder of how far we have to go. Those who are working to turn around our less-than-mediocre enrollment figures must maintain momentum. We don’t want to be doing the bare minimum for Ohio kids. We want to be giving them every opportunity to succeed. After all, our future is in their hands.
Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. May 23, 2023.
Editorial: Ballot Board keeps voters in the dark
Obfuscation is the order of the day when it comes to a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would make all subsequent amendments harder to pass.
At least that’s how it appeared after the Republican majority on the Ohio Ballot Board voted last week to approve the explanation voters will read when they head to the polls for an expensive and unnecessary special election Aug. 8. (The board’s two Democrats voted no.)
Voters will be told that approval of Issue 1, as the ballot measure will be known, would require future amendments to receive at least 60 percent of the vote to be added to the Constitution.
What the explanation doesn’t say is that the threshold now, and for Issue 1, is 50% plus one vote.
Voters also will be told that petitions supporting constitutional amendments would need to have been signed by “at least five percent of the eligible voters of each county in the state” if filed after Jan. 1, 2024.
What voters won’t be told is that the Constitution now requires petition signatures from only half of Ohio’s 88 counties.
The word “eligible” also rightly struck Democrats as misleading because it implies that the threshold is 5% of all registered voters. In reality, the standard is 5% of voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election. (A total of 10% of voters from the last gubernatorial election is necessary statewide to get a proposed amendment on the ballot.)
Voters further will be told that after Jan. 1, 2024, additional signatures “may not be added to an initiative petition.”
What voters won’t be told is that right now there’s a so-called “cure period” in which proponents have 10 days to gather additional signatures if their initial effort fails short.
Also troubling is the name the Ballot Board assigned to Issue 1, which is formally called “Elevating The Standards To Qualify For And To Pass Any Constitutional Amendment.”
“Elevating” the Ohio Constitution sure sounds better than what the amendment is actually designed to do, which is to prevent a majority of voters from adding amendments that Republicans don’t like. The whole point of rushing their amendment to the ballot in August has been to try to make it harder to pass an abortion-rights amendment that is expected to appear on the November ballot.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican who serves on the Ballot Board, defended the lack of critical details informing voters what they were being asked to give up. Voters, he said, would be able to read up on the proposed amendment before heading to the polls.
Sure, some will do so, but not all. Some voters will head into the voting booth, read about “elevating” the Constitution and vote for it. Which is probably the point.
LaRose also defended the word “elevating” when questioned by reporters after the Ballot Board meeting in which Democrats objected to the explanation and the name of the proposed amendment.
“Elevating means to raise or increase,” LaRose said, according to The Plain Dealer. “That’s the first definition in the Webster’s Dictionary.”
Um, sort of.
Here’s the first definition of elevate on Merriam-Webster.com: “to lift up or make higher: Raise.” The other definitions are: “to raise in rank or status,” “to improve morally, intellectually, or culturally” and “to raise the spirits of: Elate.”
All of those definitions carry positive connotations, not the neutral one that LaRose said the Ballot Board was aiming for.
We’d like to say the Republican effort to obscure what the proposed amendment would do came as a surprise. It didn’t because disingenuousness has marred the GOP’s handling of the whole process.
At first, Republicans claimed they were trying to protect the Ohio Constitution from outside “special interests,” although some finally admitted they were really trying to prevent amendments on issues such as abortion and redistricting reform.
Republicans have not, however, complained about a conservative Illinois billionaire pumping cash into a political action committee that favors making the Ohio Constitution harder to amend.
Then there’s the August special election. Republicans voted largely to do away with such elections just a few months ago, arguing that they were too expensive for the low turnout they generated.
Once Republicans realized the idea of abortion rights enjoyed majority support, their devotion to cost savings — the August election is expected to cost $20 million — and letting voters decide important issues in regular elections evaporated.
Voters deserve honesty and transparency, but they sure aren’t getting them when it comes to Issue 1.