Thursday, February 7, 2008

Significant Proposals for Ohio Education in State of the State Address

In Wednesday’s State of the State address, Gov. Ted Strickland called for the University System of Ohio to develop a new “Senior to Sophomore” program that would allow qualified high school seniors to take their entire college freshman year simultaneously with the 12th grade — and with no tuition charged.

Speaking today before a joint session of the Ohio House and Senate, he said that free tuition would apply at any University System campus, meaning any public campus, in the way that the current Postsecondary Education Option Program charges no tuition to students taking college courses while in high school.

Strickland said that all credits earned in his new program would transfer in full to public campuses “and many privates.” This program will be put in place for the 2008-09 academic year, he added.

He also promised that “quality associate or bachelor’s degrees in core fields” would be available within 30 miles of any Ohio resident, recalling former
Gov. James Rhodes’ effort starting in the 1960s to develop two-year public campuses throughout the state.

The big news for the K-12 community in the governor’s speech is not the effect that “Senior to Sophomore” would have on the many Advanced Placement courses local districts have implemented, but a call for a change in leadership structure at the Ohio Department of Education modeled on the changes last year to the Ohio Board of Regents.

Seeking to reform an “unwieldy department with splintered accountability,” Strickland asked the legislature for authority to appoint a director of the department with full management authority, who would report directly to him in the way that Chancellor Eric Fingerhut reports to him and not to the Board of Regents. The State Board of Education would continue to exist, as does the Board of Regents, and would still even appoint a Superintendent of Public Instruction, but the board would be an advisory panel only, and both board and superintendent would have any additional roles solely as determined by the director of the department.

— Bob Burke