HB 438 to honor public education, facilitate Geauga consolidation
State Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) announced this week the passage of House Bill (HB) 438, legislation to designate the week prior to the week of Thanksgiving Day as “Ohio Public Education Appreciation Week” and pave the way for the consolidation of three school districts in Geauga County. The passage of HB 438 came during a flurry of activity by the state legislature during the final days of the 131st Ohio General Assembly.
“Designating a week each year as Public Education Week may seem like a small gesture, but as a former educator I believe this will serve as an important reminder of the role public education plays in our everyday lives,” said Patterson. “Too many schools across our state are taken for granted, teachers are under more and more scrutiny, and many districts are feeling the stress of budget cuts. It is my hope that we will instead promote the importance of these invaluable public institutions.”
The week chosen for the designated distinction was meant to coincide with the National Education Association’s “American Education Week”. As a high school U.S. history teacher for 29 years, Patterson has used his time as a legislator to focus much of his attention on solving state education issues and promoting the importance of public education.
HB 438 also requires the Ohio School Facilities Commission to give priority for project funding to school districts that result from certain types of mergers or consolidations. The legislation, originally introduced as HB 148 by Patterson and Rep. Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland), was initially tailored to specifically assist Newbury, Berkshire, and Cardinal school districts should they choose to consolidate.
“Local schools play an important role in establishing the social fabric of a community. Rep. LaTourette and I believe it is imperative that we help maintain a local sense of connectedness in these communities should they choose to consolidate,” said Patterson. “We want the communities to continue to feel a sense of pride in their local schools, but with a declining and aging population, coupled with the effects of open enrollment, the status quo is no longer sustainable.”
Decisions of how to best consolidate area school districts – should they pursue some form of consolidation – are left to the local school boards under the bill. Under any potential consolidation plan, House Bill 148 would permit the continued existence of elementary schools in Thompson Township, Newbury Township, Burton Village, and Middlefield Village.
HB 438 now awaits Gov. John Kasich’s signature.