While President Trump and his legal team continue to challenge election results in several states, presumptive President-Elect Joe Biden built on his electoral victory last week. Biden already has put together his own COVID-19 task force and named long-time Democratic operative Ron Klain as his chief-of-staff.
Biden has signaled that there will be many changes at the Department of Education, undoing policies put in place by controversial Secretary Betsy DeVos. While DeVos’ replacement is to be determined, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is rumored to be on the short list. Superintendents of major U.S. school districts, as well as presidents of HBCUs are also being considered, according to reports.
While Democrats in the U.S. House lost seats, they will be in the majority for the next two years with at least 218 of the 435 seats. All 16 of Ohio’s congressional incumbents won re-election. Control of the U.S. Senate is still up for grabs as the two Georgia Senate races head to run-off elections on January 5, 2021. Both Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff need to win their races in order to give Democrats (plus the Independents who caucus with them) 50 seats, which would allow Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris to break ties.
In Ohio, all 99 House seats and 16 of the 33 Senate seats were on the ballot this year. In the House, Republicans netted a gain of three seats, which will give them a 64 to 35 supermajority for the next General Assembly. Speaker Bob Cupp, who took over for Larry Householder after Householder was arrested by the FBI, will remain Speaker. Householder, who never was removed by the House, won reelection, since he had no formal opponent and only faced write-in candidates.
The Republicans also will retain their supermajority in the Senate, although the number of Republicans to Democrats remains to be determined. While Republicans picked up one seat that had been held by a Democrat, there is a close race in suburban Columbus in which an automatic recount will occur. Depending on the outcome of this race, the Ohio Senate either will remain at a 24 to 9 split, or Republicans could have an additional seat. Sen. Matt Huffman was chosen as the new Senate President last week, as current Senate President Larry Obhof is term-limited.
This is supposed to be the last election with heavily gerrymandered districts. In 2015, Ohio voters approved a constitutional amendment that is intended to make state legislative redistricting more of a bipartisan effort with new requirements for district boundaries that make gerrymandering more difficult to accomplish.
When the new Ohio General Assembly commences in 2021, the Fiscal Year 2022-23 state budget will be the major focus. State officials already are tempering expectations in regards to discretional funding (which includes higher education), as state tax receipts are still recovering, and any small revenue increases are likely to be absorbed by Medicaid.
While some institutions have weathered this storm better than others, colleges and universities cannot keep delivering high-quality education with high-quality faculty with fewer resources. It is going to be an uphill battle, but we will be making a strong case that higher education funding needs to be restored and increased, and we will need our members to help make this case. Stay tuned for more information and ways to take action early next year.