The 129th General Assembly has been underway for nearly two months now, and as your state representative, I have been hard at work considering legislation that will get our economy back on track and safeguard our communities. For more than two years I have had the privilege of representing the 46th Ohio House District in the People’s House, and during that time I have spoken with many of our neighbors about the issues that are of the utmost importance to them.
There are two concerns that have arisen frequently within our community: the viability of our schools and the way state government is spending your hard-earned money. Fortunately, the Ohio House has been working on several proposals to address these issues and put the state of Ohio on the path to prosperity.
There is truly nothing more important than creating a competitive learning environment for Ohio’s young minds and giving school districts the ability to shape their own budgets. However, the “evidence-based” education model that passed during the previous General Assembly put many schools at risk by handing the districts a list of unfunded or underfunded mandates—leaving the districts to foot the bill. Among these mandates was the requirement that schools offer all-day, every-day kindergarten, which creates an added expense of more than $200 million at a time when schools are least able to afford it.
I recently voted in support of House Bill 30, which repeals portions of the “evidence-based” model that have caused a financial crisis for many districts. This legislation repeals the authority of the state superintendent of public instruction to penalize schools that do not spend dollars precisely the way the state has mandated the dollars to be spent, which gives flexibility and control back to the local districts and administrators who know their schools the best. And, perhaps most importantly, House Bill 30 allows districts to decide for themselves whether or not to implement all-day kindergarten, while allowing districts that do decide to start or continue offering this program the option to charge a fee or tuition to fund it.
House Bill 30 is a common-sense approach to school funding considering the times that we are currently in. It will not only reduce education costs for the schools but for the taxpayers as well. During this difficult economy, I wholeheartedly believe that we should constantly seek ways to reduce the burden on the citizens we represent, and this legislation is a good step.
Another piece of legislation that will make our government fit the economy is House Bill 2, which will require the Ohio Auditor of State to conduct performance audits of certain state agencies. This bill would ensure that Ohio’s government is operating as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible by trimming out wasteful spending and reducing the red tape that often bogs down state operations.
This is both an immediate and long-term solution to Ohio’s financial mess. Not only can we potentially trim out millions of dollars in waste and inefficiency from our budget—which is already facing an $8 billion hole—but these are savings that we will benefit from for years to come. In both good and bad economies, I believe that lawmakers have a responsibility to do everything they can to save money for the people they were elected to represent, so I hope to see this legislation move quickly through the legislative process.
My experiences as a parent and small business owner have given me a greater understanding of the challenges that our community is currently facing, challenges that affect our schools, our job creators and economic competitiveness. It is my honor to listen to your concerns and advocate on your behalf in Columbus. As the House continues to craft and pass legislation, I encourage you to contact my office with any questions or concerns.
Rep. Sears may be reached by calling (614) 466-1731, emailing District46@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Rep. Barbara Sears, 77 South High Street, Columbus, Ohio 43215.