Proposed New Cabinet-Level Education Agency Promises Better Workforce Program Coordination

The Ohio Chamber weighed in this week on a bill that has gotten comparatively out-sized attention from media outlets across the state – you may have even read about it in your local newspaper. The bill is House Bill 512, which reorganizes Ohio’s education system by creating a new cabinet level agency called the Ohio Department of Learning and Achievement (DLA). DLA would combine the existing Ohio Department of Higher Education, Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, and the PreK-12 policy functions of the Ohio Department of Education.

Obviously, it’s a comprehensive piece of legislation that touches on the whole of Ohio’s educational system. It has garnered substantial interest from a variety of the groups you would expect to care about a bill like this: career technical education centers, educational service centers, school administrators, teachers’ unions, etc. Some of these groups are concerned about the bill’s most controversial provisions that re-defines the duties of the State Board of Education.

The Ohio Chamber’s interest in HB 512 is more narrow. Our concern is with how the bill would impact workforce development, specifically. We hear from our members every time we visit one of their places of business that attracting and retaining qualified employees is one of their top issues of concern. Better alignment of our education system to better prepare our workforce for both today and for the future is essential.

By changing the structure of how Ohio administers all of its education and workforce programs and giving a single individual – the Director of DLA – management responsibility for all three currently siloed areas, HB 512 will mean clearer lines of authority and a common mission. This streamlined decision-making process would be a positive step toward greater transparency and accountability and should result in operational efficiencies by limiting duplication of efforts. Further, it should help ensure resources are focused on the most effective initiatives and improve the return on all of our workforce investments.

The bill has the backing of House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and the Kasich Administration and has had four hearings in the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee so far. Another hearing is expected next week.