Two Ohio Board of Education appointees who supported anti-racism resolution resign

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — Two appointed members of the Ohio Board of Education will lose their seats.

The state board of education building
The Ohio Department of Education building in downtown Columbus, where State Board of Education meetings are held monthly. [Karen Kasler | Statehouse News Bureau]
State Board of Education president Laura Kohler of New Albany, whose term was supposed to end in 2024, and member Eric Poklar of Worthington both resigned. Kohler submitted her resignation to Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday afternoon, while Poklar turned his in Friday morning.

Kohler and Poklar were among those who supported an anti-racism measure passed last summer after the killing of George Floyd. That sweeping resolution acknowledged the longstanding achievement gap between different demographics and emphasized equity and opportunity for students of color.

It was rescinded this month, but Kohler and Poklar voted against taking it back.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) hinted a change was coming when he talked to reporters about the Senate’s approval of fellow Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s appointments.

“When I just became president [in January], my first concern was this diversity thing, but that was an issue that was brought to me by a whole variety of people, including other state school board members,” said Huffman.

But Huffman said there were “probably four or five other things that we talk about talk about: school choice and school funding and the operation of the Ohio Department of Education, almost on a regular basis.”

Huffman also said “geographical diversity” was among those issues with the governor’s appointees.

“Nearly all of them are from central Ohio, and I don’t think that’s representative of the state. So I went to them and I expressed it and I said, I think some of these folks, perhaps you’d like to withdraw some of these names,” Huffman said after session on Wednesday.

Three of the eight appointed members are from the Columbus area. The others are from Washington Court House in south central Ohio, Leetonia in the Youngstown area, Lebanon in southwest Ohio and two from Lakeview and Sidney in northwest Ohio – not far from Huffman’s hometown of Lima.

All the appointed board members were selected to the board by either DeWine or his Republican predecessor Gov. John Kasich.

A spokesman for DeWine said he was aware of media reports, but as of mid-afternoon on Thursday he said, “we have not received any formal resignations at this time.”

There’s long been a struggle over the composition of the State Board of Education, made up of eight appointees and 11 elected board members.

A bipartisan bill would make the entire State Board of Education an elected body. But K-12 education such a critical issue, governors have long wanted more control over the state board.

The departures of the board members also come at a time of increased interest in local school board races. The Ohio School Boards Association reports 2,628 candidates are running for school boards this year. And that’s more than a 50% increase from the number of candidates running for school boards four years ago.

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