State School Board Proposes Rule Change For Art, Music, Gym

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A proposed rule change by the Ohio State School Board has many up in arms about the future of art, gym, and music classes and their teachers.

The debate centers on the so-called "5 of 8 rule," which requires local elementary schools to provide at least five of the eight specialist positions per 1,000 students.

These positions include art, music, and physical education teachers as well as school counselors, library media specialists, nurses, social workers, and "visiting teachers."  

The school board is proposing the elimination of the "5 of 8" requirement.

"This just gives flexibility to these school districts to assess their own needs and priorities and make hiring decisions based on the staffing needs that they have," said John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education.

On Tuesday, the state school board held a meeting on this issue and things got heated. 

Four school board members walked out of the meeting after President Debe Terhar made a last-minute change to the agenda, pushing back the allotted time for public comment.

Board member, Ann Jacobs was one of the four individuals that left the room.

"That was very concerning to a number of us because people drive, they miss school, they take a day off — it's a big deal for them to come and participate," Jacobs said.

Over an hour later, the public had their chance to speak. Many opponents of the proposed rule change said they fear this will lead to the overall cutting of arts education.

"A lot of people are very talented in that area," Jacobs said. "It's just unfair to students to not give them an opportunity to explore their talents."

The state said their intent is not to cut the arts, but to give local control over those specialist areas.

Charlton gave this example: "Let's say that a rural school district does not have their own library. They take their kids on a short walk to the local library where they get their library services there. So they don't have the need to hire a librarian."

For some at the meeting, their opinion on this issue was not black-and-white, especially when they considered rural school districts.

"At what point does the state step in and say these positions must be funded?" said board member, A.J. Wagner. "And at what point does the state respect their need for flexibility in their budgets because they are so tight and says 'go ahead you make the decisions, we'll trust you to do that'. It's a tough decision for me."

The board will hold a full vote on this issue in December.