Ohio Chamber Again Pushes for Stronger K-12 Alignment with Workforce

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce offered proponent testimony last week on House Bill 12, a companion bill to Senate Bill 1, which restructures both the Ohio Department of Education and State Board of Education to provide stronger emphasis on workforce skills and career readiness. Both House Bill 12 and Senate Bill 1 are priority bills in their respective legislative chambers and one of the Ohio Chamber’s top priorities for the 135th Ohio General Assembly.

Rick Carfagna, SVP of Government Affairs for the Chamber, testified before the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee in favor of the legislation. As noted by Carfagna, 2022 state snapshot reports for Grade 8 mathematics and reading show that average proficiency scores for Ohio students are lower than previous average scores in 2019. Additionally, scores for black students and Hispanic students were each significantly lower compared to white students.

Carfagna also shared data from Ohio’s 2021 Remediation Report, produced by the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Department of Higher Education, which illustrates preparedness issues among high school graduates. As of 2020, the percentage of Ohio public high school graduates attending an Ohio public college or university and needing remediation in math or English was 19.3%. For Ohio adults over age 25 enrolling in postsecondary education for the first time, the overall remediation in 2020 was even higher at 24.87%.

“Continuing on the path we have right now is clearly not working,” remarked Carfagna. “Will this new system work? We think it will, but we’re confident that the current system is not working, and we need a structural change in K-12 in this state. We are not cultivating a technology-proficient workforce. Our education system is not equipping students with the skill sets to fill current job openings, the jobs in the pipeline that have been announced, and the jobs in the coming decade that have yet to be invented.”

Under House Bill 12 and Senate Bill 1, the Ohio Department of Education will become a state-level agency called the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) with a dual focus on primary and secondary education and preparing students for the workforce. The department will be led by a Director who is appointed by the Governor and subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. The Department will have two divisions: the Division of Primary and Secondary Education and the Division of Career Technical Education. The Ohio Chamber believes that elevating Career Tech Education to the same levels as K-12 is long overdue and will greatly help eradicate stigmas surrounding skilled trades while also supplying our state’s business community with a talented, homegrown employee base.