Legislature

Legislature Ignoring Real Ohio Problems to Tackle Imaginary Problems

As for Loychik, his best-known initiative is an unpassed bill to rename Mosquito Lake State Park, north of Warren, to Donald J. Trump State Park. It encompasses Mosquito Creek Lake, impounded in 1944 by the US Army Corps of Engineers. (There is no discernible connection between Mosquito Creek and President Trump.)

HB 616, according to its official summary, is aimed at “the promotion and teaching of divisive or inherently racist concepts in public schools. What he really stands for is Headline Envy — for all the ink Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Don’t-Say-Gay Act draws.

From kindergarten through third grade, the Loychik-Schmidt bill also targets “any curricula or educational materials about sexual orientation or gender identity.” So much for children of homosexual or trans parents.

The bill specifically prohibits “critical race theory… intersectional theory… [New York Times’s] Project 1619 … Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Learning Outcomes … [or] Inherited racial guilt. You have to wonder if Loychik’s Trumbull County students will be banned from learning about his history in supporting two of the GOP’s anti-slavery ancestors, the Liberty and Free Soil parties.

Whether the bill gets anywhere largely depends on how well Ohio House Speaker Robert Cupp, a Republican from Lima, wields his gatekeeper gavel. In many ways, and unlike any speaker from Ohio in recent memory, Cupp has become an instrument of his caucus rather than the other way around. But you can be sure that a fair number of GOP caucusers would appreciate election-year headlines on the bill.

There are two other Republican winners in the House’s Bash-a-Thon, House Bill 322, sponsored by Rep. Don Jones, of Harrison County’s Freeport, and House Bill 327, sponsored by Rep. Diane Grendell, of Geauga County’s Chesterland, and Sarah Fowler Arthur of Rock Creek in Ashtabula County.

Among other features, according to nonpartisan legislative analysts, HB 322 prohibits classroom statements that “slavery and racism are anything other than deviations, betrayals, or failures to uphold the authentic founding principles of the United States.” . It is difficult to reconcile this claim with the US Constitution, which when drafted treated an enslaved person as three-fifths of a person for representation in Congress.

As for HB 327, it also targets “divisive concepts” by, in effect, telling teachers what they can teach and how they can teach it. That’s rich enough coming from a legislature that ignores real Ohio problems to tackle imaginary ones — and in doing so willfully, deliberately and cynically stokes the very social divisions it purports to oppose.

Thomas Suddes is an adjunct assistant professor at Ohio University. He covered the Statehouse for The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer for many years.