By Ann Sanner
COLUMBUS: A compromise has been struck between sponsors of an Ohio bill that would require students in grades 4-12 be taught the original texts of the state and U.S. constitutions, the Declaration of Independence and other documents, and high school students would have to be tested on the documents.
Different versions of the bill passed both Republican-led chambers of the state Legislature last year, but the Senate in January rejected the House changes to the measure. That sent the bill to a conference committee, where a group of legislators have been working out their technical differences.
The panel was expected Tuesday to vote on the proposed agreement, which could free the bill up to clear the Legislature this week.
The compromise seeks to clarify that the bill wouldn’t require any additional end-of-course examinations than what’s already in the works by the state Department of Education. Legislative analysts had said it wasn’t clear that the House changes to the bill would have required the creation of an additional test. They had estimated that the extra exam could cost the department between $2 million and $2.5 million.
The suggested compromise spells out that high school students would have to take just two end-of-course examinations — one for American history and another for American government, and there wouldn’t be an additional cost.
Under the House-passed version, the bill would have required that at least 25 percent of the end-of-course examinations in American history and American government cover the historical documents mentioned.
A proposed change by the sponsors would require that at least 20 percent of the American government exam relate to the founding documents by 2013-2014 school year. Their agreement doesn’t outline a specific percentage for the American history exam, only that it would have to address the historical texts.
The legislation has been met with criticism, particularly from black Democrats who have said the included documents were culturally narrow. Those lawmakers and other opponents have objected to the bill’s failure to list the Bill of Rights, Emancipation Proclamation and other historical texts.
The proposed compromise would also direct the state Board of Education to make available a list of suggested grade-appropriate supplemental readings that place the documents in their historical context.