Legislative Watch – June 29, 2021

Final Budget Bill Includes Fair School Funding Plan, Pathway Out of State Takeover
On Monday, June 28, 2021, the Ohio General Assembly finished its work on House Bill 110, the state budget for FY 2022 and FY 2023.  The final bill was produced by a Conference Committee that worked out the differences between the House and Senate. The final bill was passed by a vote of 32-1 in the Senate and 82-13 in the House.

Of great importance was the inclusion of the Fair School Funding Plan in the final bill. This was OEA’s top budget priority. The Fair School Funding plan was a product of years of work by policy makers and school finance experts that garnered bipartisan support. The plan is based upon the costs of providing a high-quality education. It will reduce the reliance on local property taxes. The bill directly funds charter school and voucher students, ending the pass-through funding model that deducts from local school districts. When fully implemented, it will provide a formula is student-centered, equitable, adequate, transparent, and ensures the funding needed to provide all kids the future they deserve.

Of concern is that the final budget applies the formula to only this two-year budget. Intent language to fully phase in the formula over six years and several studies to further refine aspects of the formula were removed. Clearly, our work is not over, and it will be important to continue to advocate for the resources to fully implement the Fair School Funding plan and make it historic promise a reality for Ohio’s students.

Another positive aspect of the bill was the inclusion of language that was in the Senate version establishing a pathway out of state takeover for Lorain, Youngstown, and East Cleveland. The failed state takeover law has been a harmful experiment for students, educators, and communities. The distractions and dysfunction caused by state takeovers increases the difficulty of developing comprehensive supports that help students overcome barriers to learning caused by poverty. All three districts and communities under an ADC/CEO deserve to regain local control.

On the priority issues of vouchers and charter schools the news was less welcome. The expanded eligibility for EdChoice vouchers, removal of the statewide cap and increased voucher amounts in the Senate version were retained. The Senate’s provision that allows brick and mortar charter schools to open anywhere in the state was also included. The final bill did not include language to allow charter schools to be operated by a sectarian school or religious institution. However, the bill did include tax credits of up to $1,000 on private school tuition.

The bill must be signed by Governor DeWine by June 30 and is subject to potential line-item vetoes. OEA will provide members additional information as this occurs. Fuller analysis of HB 110 will be provided over the coming weeks.

HB 82: Reworked Report Card System Contains Major Changes Called for by OEA
Eliminates A-F Letter Grades; Creates Student Opportunity Profile

The Ohio General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a reworked version of the state report card system for school districts/buildings that seeks to address numerous flaws with the current approach. The updated report card system was amended into House Bill 82, a bill supported by OEA that allows students to opt out of the statewide administration of the ACT and SAT tests in their junior year (with parental consent). House Bill 82 now heads to the Governor, who is expected to sign the bill.

The updated report card system in House Bill 82 contains major changes called for by the OEA. These include the elimination of misleading A-F letter grades beginning with the report card for the 2021-22 school year. The new rating system will be based on a five-star system (including half-stars) accompanied by trend arrows and brief explanatory descriptors. The bill also includes the creation of an ungraded Student Opportunity Profile with twenty-two indicators proposed by OEA beginning with report card for the 2022-23 school year.

A summary of the updated report card system can be found here.