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Future uncertain as Ohio higher education board sits idle

The future of Ohio's once-powerful higher education advisory board remains uncertain with the panel remaining inactive because it doesn't have enough members for a quorum


COLUMBUS — The future of Ohio’s once-powerful higher education advisory board remains uncertain as lawmakers move to change the way the state oversees education.

The Ohio Board of Regents hasn’t met in over a year because it doesn’t have enough members for a quorum, reports The Columbus Dispatch . Two members were left on the board after multiple regents’ terms expired, said Ohio Department of Higher Education spokesman Jeff Robinson. Members are appointed by the governor and unpaid.

The board was previously responsible for appointing the chancellor of higher education and outlining Ohio higher education policy. Legislators voted in 2007 to change state law so the governor appoints the higher education chancellor. The change, which left the board in an advisory role, was met with mixed responses.

In its current role, the board submits an annual report about the state of higher education and evaluates the chancellor’s performance. Ohio colleges have adopted some board recommendations in recent years. Public colleges implemented tobacco-free policies at the recommendation of the board in 2012, for example.

A spokesman for two-term Republican Gov. John Kasich, who has pushed for more gubernatorial control over education at all levels, would not say whether Kasich plans to appoint more regents.

House Republicans recently proposed a plan that would mark another shift in education. Under the plan, the state would combine the Department of Education, Department of Higher Education and the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation into one agency. Proponents of the measure say it would improve accountability.

Some Democrats call the idea a “mega-department of education” that would increase bureaucracy and enable more influence from politics and special interests. Groups representing school officials raised similar concerns.

The terms for the remaining two regents expire in September. Chancellor John Carey continues to work with both regents and receive feedback, Robinson said.

Bruce Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, believes Kasich should be transparent and say whether he plans to dissolve the Board of Regents.

“If that’s the governor’s plan, they ought to talk about it that way,” Johnson said.

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