On Friday, January 31, after a noisy and intense process to resolve the looming threat of a huge expansion in the number of school districts that would have to fund vouchers out of their local school budgets, the legislature voted to delay the application date until April 1.
The delay gave them time to find a solution to the problem. And on Wednesday, February 5, the House voted 88-7 to provide a fix in an amended version of SB 89. This voucher relief package transforms state policy on vouchers. Going forward, all new vouchers will be directly funded as a line item in the state budget.
Thanks to all of you who wrote or called legislators, your state representatives felt the pressure to support public education and took action for positive change! The Senate went home without acting on the plan. But your calls can help make the difference once again!
SB 89 provides relief from the deduction method of funding vouchers, and it addresses another long-standing concern, state take-over of school districts. Both of these punitive policies are based on the state report card. If nothing else, this fight has raised awareness that the report card system is broken.
The League opposes the use of public funds for private and religious education. But Ohio’s unique system of funding vouchers by the deduction method is particularly hard on local school districts that are responsible for paying for students who they do not educate!
THE DEDUCTION METHOD OF FUNDING VOUCHERS IS WRONG. IT DESTROYS LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT BUDGETS, INCREASES INEQUALITY IN LOCAL EDUCATION RESOURCES, PUNISHES CHILDREN WHO LIVE IN POVERTY, AND INCREASES RELIANCE ON LOCAL PROPERTY TAXES.
Here are some of the important provisions of SB 89, and if the Senate concurs, Ohio will begin the path to relief for public school districts.
It will end the deduction method for funding NEW vouchers. Starting with the 2020-21 school year all NEW vouchers will come from the Buckeye Opportunity Scholarship program and will be based on income.
Families with incomes up to 250% of poverty will be eligible for a voucher. Partial support will be available for families up to 300% of poverty. Sen. Matt Huffman wants more people to be eligible, and has pushed for 400%. This percentage matters and is the likely focus for the debate in the senate.
Academic distress commissions now in place in three cities will be dissolved in June, and a moratorium on new commissions until 2024 will go into effect.
The Legislature will create two study groups, one to examine testing and the state report card, and the second to design better ways to support school districts that are struggling.