‘5 of 8 Rule’ Elimination Moving Forward

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A policy change which would eliminate the requirement for school districts to provide a specific number of art, music and physical education instructors for every 1,000 students took another step forward this past week.

The policy change proposed by the Ohio Board of Education would eliminate the “5 of 8 rule” which has required that school districts employ at least five of eight positions (art, music and physical education teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses, social workers and visiting teachers) per 1,000 students.

The board voted 14-5 earlier this week to approve language eliminating the mandate after it changed an earlier proposal to retain certain protections for specialized teachers in place, according to the Associated Press.

The change would not eliminate the positions, but leave the decision up to the individual districts as to how many and which positions to employ.

“I get it on one hand,” said Nelsonville-York Board of Education President Micah Covert. “It gives more local control which I like. But the state has cut funding so drastically that many of the poorer schools are not going to be able to afford those and those are the positions that will be on the chopping block.”

“I am in favor of the change, but it would not have any impact on our district,” said Federal Hocking Supt. George Wood. “The other problem with this rule change is that I believe it is being done to help districts make cuts necessitated by a lack of funding from the state. Districts that cut these positions will be doing so not because they want to, but because, due to a lack of funding, they have to.”

While this is one area in which the decision making could go to the local level, it is something that could help in many other areas according to Wood.
“My concern, however, is that the state only wants to give local control to districts over things like this which are not our biggest problem. If they want to get serious about local control, they should let us create and design our own accountability systems,” he said. “Right now it seems like every time I turn around there is another report to fill out — for example, we just finished working on a 30-page list of requirements involving parent participation. This report will not make a bit of difference, it is just jumping through hoops.

The same goes for the incredible amount of testing we must do (as many as 30 days). Districts should be allowed to pick and choose what measures they use to establish whether or not children are learning.”

According to the Associated Press, the changes were part of an across-the-board overhaul of Ohio’s education operating standards. That heads next to a rigorous rule review, which also includes public participation, before returning to the state board around March for a final vote.

Although the change is not finalized yet, Covert said he does not see a change in course and expects the mandate to be eliminated.

“If it were to pass, Nelsonville-York is financially secure and will not need to make cuts in these areas. We understand the importance of arts, music and physical education,” said Covert.

“I do no think the state’s change of the 5-8 rule would have an impact on the staffing of the Athens City School District,” said Athens City Schools Supt. Carl Martin. “We currently comply with this rule.”