The Ohio Legislature completed its spring session this week, but not before enacting several pieces of legislation that significantly expand parental choice in education.
Monday saw Gov. John Kasich sign House Bill (HB) 487 into law. HB487, the Mid-Biennium Budget Review (MBR) included among its many provisions the elimination of the parent co-pay for the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program (CSTP).
Since the inception of the Cleveland scholarship in 1997, parents of students receiving the scholarship have been required to make an out-of-pocket payment to cover between 10-25 percent of the cost of the scholarships, depending on their income. The intent as originally introduced was for parents to be partners with the state in covering the cost of these scholarships but it didn’t take into account that parents already have to pay the additional school fees that are not covered by the scholarship.
In the 15 years since the Cleveland scholarship was introduced, three additional scholarships have been created in Ohio, and none of these scholarships have required a parent co-pay. The co-pay has been a significant financial hardship to the parents who have chosen to participate, and in many cases prevented parents who could not afford the co-payment from electing to send their children to the school of their choice.
Thanks to the leadership of Representative Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland), as well the leaders of the House and Senate finance committees, the co-pay requirement was removed in HB487. The change was effective immediately, which means that no CSTP recipient will have to pay for part of their own scholarship in the upcoming 2012-13 school year.
Along with the increase of the CSTP voucher amount to parity with EdChoice and the new eligibility of high school students for the voucher program that were added earlier, this has been a VERY good year for Cleveland students.
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Wednesday, the legislature completed work on two significant educational reform measures, House Bill 525, the so-called ‘Cleveland Plan’ and Senate Bill (SB) 316, the Education MBR.
The Cleveland Plan will impact only the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, but its impact could have far-reaching impact on all school districts throughout the state of Ohio in the years to come. Among the many provisions included in the bill is:
- The ability of the leaders of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to modify the length of the current school day or school year, with the option of adopting a year-round schooling option.
- The ability to share property tax money with partnering charter schools in the district. This fund will provide money to partnering charter schools based on the number of students from Cleveland that attend. When voters are asked to approve these levy dollars, the question to appear on the ballot will indicate how much of the funds will be provided to charter schools, so voters are aware ahead of time how much will be provided to these public entities.
School Choice Ohio was among the many interested parties that participated in the discussion and development of the Cleveland Plan. SCO was proud to stand in support of this bold approach to education reform in one of our state’s most struggling districts and believes that this will serve as a model for education reform not only in Ohio but across the nation.
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SB316, the Education MBR, included a number of reform measures which School Choice Ohio sought to have included. Foremost among the changes is that school districts are now required to let parents know about the Autism and Special Needs Scholarships during each IEP meeting. We hope this will be a huge step forward in letting families know about the options they have available to them.
Each of the new provisions will greatly expand availability and awareness of the scholarship programs available to families throughout Ohio. School Choice Ohio salutes the members of the Ohio General Assembly and Governor Kasich for their continued support for expanded parental choice options in Ohio.
The General Assembly is currently on recess until after the fall elections. We do anticipate a busy “lame duck” session later this year as the 129th General Assembly completes its work.
In the meantime, don’t forget to start getting to know your legislative candidates and engaging them in conversations about school choice (www.scohio.org/candidates).