Ohio ‘Five of Eight’ Rule Puts Specialists on Defensive

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The Ohio Board of Education is deciding whether or not to eliminate a state rule requiring schools to employ a certain amount of art, music and gym teachers, as well as librarians, nurses and counselors.

The “five of eight” rule adopted in 1983 states that schools must have at least five staff members from eight specialties for every 1,000 students, and has been under debate by the board for months now.

The change had been discussed by the “operating standards” committee last spring with no objections from its members.

However, concerns about the change appeared on the Internet this weekend, causing many upset residents to call board members.

On Monday the proposed changes came up for committee vote, with three members not supporting it.  The issue passed the committee in a 4-3 vote and was sent to the full board.

“Local boards are responsible for what goes on in education in their community,” said board President Debe Terhar of Cincinnati, a supporter of eliminating staffing rules for schools.

“It is essential that they do their jobs, and if they go about eliminating positions, then it is up to the local people to go to their board and protest that board’s action. That’s what needs to be done. This comes down to local control …

“Either you want local control or you don’t. That’s what it boils down to. You can’t have it both ways.”

Board member Sarah Fowler also voted no, explaining that in doing so she was “making sure we’re not incentivizing districts to not provide certain things for their students.”

Committee chairman Ron Ruddock said while he does not approve of certain characteristics of the rule which appear to be an attempt to remove jobs and services for students, he does believe that the change will allow districts to approve the services most needed by their students.

He went on to say that the “five of eight” rule does not apply in today’s world where so many more specialists exist, such as reading interventionists, audiologists and English as a Second Language teachers.  “How do you value one over another?” he asked. “You don’t, as a state.”

In addition, state law requires art, music and physical education to be included in each district’s curriculum, making it impossible for those subjects to be eliminated.

However, that law does not specify the number of teachers each district must hire, while the rule in question does hold a specific ratio of students to teachers for those eight areas.  The changes would allow schools to become creative with how services are offered to students.  For example, a nearby library could be used in place of one in the school.

Public comment will be heard by the full board at their next monthly board meeting, with a final vote on the issue expected by March.