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Guest Column from State Representative Jim Hoops: Bills Seek to Better Serve Ohio's Schoolchildren and Education System

August 20, 2018
James M. Hoops News

As the sunny months of summer near their end, children all over the state are preparing to return to cooler days filled with education and learning. With this in mind, we in the Ohio House have made a priority of addressing and improving a variety of aspects of our school systems, from teacher evaluations to residency confirmation.

Perhaps one of the best-known legislative updates of recent months was Senate Bill 226, which made permanent the August sales-tax holiday that first occurred in 2015. That year, the holiday generated an extra $5.7 million in consumption and consumer savings of approximately $3.3 million, proving its worth as an annual event. In addition to holding economic benefit, the tax-free weekend has provided an opportunity for Ohio families to purchase affordable supplies for the school year, and even covers some back-to-school clothing.

With teen suicide rates reaching tragic heights, I believe it is crucial for teachers and those who interact with our students every day to be aware of red flags and outreach techniques. House Bill 502 would require certain public school employees to participate in youth suicide awareness and prevention programs once every two years, preparing them to assist struggling students.

I know that school safety is on every parent’s mind. I was proud to support House Bill 318, a bill establishing qualifications and requirements for school resource officers (SROs), or security personnel who work with school districts. The bill helps ensure all SROs are able to adequately protect our children, and distributes $12 million in grants to upgrade school facilities and fund training. In further efforts to provide support and safety for students, the House passed House Bill 360, the Anti-Bullying and Hazing Act. This establishes legal procedures and repercussions but also permits schools to offer counseling services to both victim and offender.

Striving for religious freedom and equality, we passed the Ohio Student Religious Liberties Act of 2018. This helps ensure that students have the same access to school facilities when participating in religious activities as when participating in secular activities, and establishes clarification to current law regarding religious expression in schools.

In this modern age, it is plain to see that job fields are changing rapidly, and there are many newly created positions that relate to technology. Thanks to House Bill 170, high school students may soon be able to take a computer science class as they work toward graduation requirements.

In addition to these and other legislative developments, we have also addressed e-school regulation and reform, emphasizing accountability for taxpayer money and for students. Education is on our minds here at the House, and we are determined to ensure the best for Ohio students. I feel confident that these steps will contribute to common-sense updates and reforms in our schools, which is what our students deserve.