Legislative Watch – June 3, 2021

Earlier this week, the Senate Finance Committee adopted a substitute version of House Bill 110, the state budget bill for Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023. Disappointingly, the Senate version of the bill removes the House-passed Fair School Funding Plan (FSFP) and replaces it with a lower base per-pupil of $6,110. The Senate plan equates to a $90 per pupil increase from the per-pupil amount enacted two years ago and is considerably less than a fully phased in base per-pupil of the FSFP (statewide average is $7,200). The Senate school funding plan also fails to address any of adequacy or equity issues that have long made Ohio’s broken school funding system unconstitutional. OEA continues to advocate for the adoption of the Fair School Funding Plan that when fully phased-in would provide an additional $1.8 in funding for schools.

The Senate’s substitute version of the budget maintains the House’s action to directly fund voucher programs and charter schools. This is very positive as it will end the practice of “pass through funding” that deducts voucher amounts and charter school funding from the state funds that a district receives. This funding method has forced local taxpayers to subsidize voucher students and resulted in lower funding for public school students.

However, the Senate’s version would eliminate the current cap on EdChoice vouchers, increase the eligibility for EdChoice vouchers, and increase the maximum amount of each voucher to an amount that for high school vouchers would exceed the per pupil state aid public school students receive in 80 percent of Ohio School Districts. These changes would result in higher costs and even more taxpayer money going to private schools. OEA opposes these changes.

Other major policy highlights contained within the Senate substitute measure are outlined below:

  • Removes Student Wellness and Success Funds from the school funding formula and reinstates a standalone program. Appropriates $650 million over the biennium for this purpose.
  • Allows new start up charter schools to open anywhere in the state (not just “challenged districts,” i.e. the Big Eight urban districts and districts with certain “low performing” ratings on the state report card). Charters are direct funded by the state under FSFP.
  • Allows charter schools to be operated by a sectarian school or religious institution or to be sectarian in their programs, admissions policies, employment practices, and all other operations.
  • Includes Academic Distress Commission language from SB 165, which establishes a pathway for Lorain City Schools (does not apply to Youngstown or East Cleveland City Schools) to exit state control under the state takeover law.
  • Removes a variety of educator licensure disciplinary provisions that would have undermined due process for license holders.
    Provides a 5% income tax cut over the biennium resulting in a loss of $874 million in income tax revenue. Losing this revenue will hamstring Ohio’s ability to adequately fund our schools and other important programs.
  • Eliminates the provision from the Executive budget that would have required students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to graduate.
  • Permits parents to opt-out of the administration of the ACT/SAT starting with the class of 2026.
  • Permits students to use relevant final course grades of B or higher to qualify for citizenship or science diploma seals.

New district funding spreadsheets (School district and JVSD) produced by the Ohio Legislative Services Commission (LSC) detailing the Senate funding plan are available. Additionally, you may see how the current school funding system affects your district and how much better districts would fare under the Fair School Funding Plan at https://www.allinforohiokids.com/

HB 110 is expected to have additional amendments and a vote next week in the Ohio Senate.