Ohio House Bill 481 was an otherwise innocuous bill that would extend the “safe harbor” for funding for those students whose parents opted them out of high-stakes state testing, among a few other things. In May of this year an amendment was added to HB 481.
Ohio’s Educational Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) Program provides private school vouchers to students from public schools with lower report card ratings. That game-changing amendment will eliminate the safe harbor that would have prohibited new schools from becoming eligible for the EdChoice Program based on their state report card ratings for the 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 school years, thus assuring that no new schools qualified for the program until the 2019-20 school year.
Although certain members of the Ohio House of Representatives tried to assure their colleagues that the amendment added to HB 481 was necessary to keep EdChoice voucher levels “constant,” this has been proven to be decidedly untrue. A financial analysis of the amendment done by the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) noted that, “Due to more rigorous state tests that began to be administered in the 2014-2015 school year, the bill’s provision may result in an increase in the number of students that qualify for traditional EdChoice scholarships beginning in the 2016-2017 school year.” And that, “In FY 2016, an estimated total of $87.7 million will be deducted from the state funding allocations of 44 school districts to fund EdChoice scholarships.”
Perhaps it was that analysis that prompted Rep. Teresa Fedor, who is a true friend to public education, to question the assertions of some that EdChoice voucher levels will remain constant with this added amendment. She insisted that another legislative analysis be done to determine the number of buildings that would be impacted by the amendment. The LSC found that this amendment to HB 481 would increase the number of schools eligible for EdChoice vouchers by 103.5%!
The number of buildings eligible for EdChoice vouchers will increase from 256 to 521 for the 2016-17 school year if this bill passes as is.
Is your school and/or district on the list? If so, I recommend that you first contact the superintendent of your district, and make sure the person is aware of this problem. Then contact your Senator and House Representative to voice your concerns about the amendment to this bill and tell them to vote NO on it.
I have made a list of all schools impacted, the contact information of each superintendent of that district, and the district number of each Senator and House Representative of that school district to make it easy for everyone.
To contact a Senator, use this email formula: SD(district number)@senate.state.oh.us.
For House Representatives: Rep(district number)@ohiohouse.gov.
Please share this information with others, and encourage them to do the same.
Although there is much speculation about who pushed for this amendment to be added to a bill that was supposed to be a safe harbor, and subsequently turned it into a bill eliminating a component of safe harbor, it seems clear to me that this is yet another way to divert much needed funds from our traditional public schools.
This should have us all very concerned.
Mandy Jablonski, Lorain County Parents Supporting our Children and Teachers