Is Ohio’s Proposed Budget Legislation on the Right Track for Education?

On Tuesday, June 6, 2023, Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman held a press conference to detail the Senate version of the state’s biennial budget.  As budget legislation moves closer toward the final version and ultimately the Governor signing it into law, it is important to note that Ohio stands on the edge of passing the most impactful education legislation in the state’s history.

“Senate President Huffman and the Ohio Senate rose to the occasion when it comes to their support of Ohio students and parents by giving them the ability and freedom to pursue the educational options that are best for their family.

This budget is a home run for Ohio. And while this is a major day for the school choice movement, there is much work to be done to get this student-focused bill enacted. We encourage the House to join their colleagues in the Senate to continue this move forward and to send the Governor a strong school choice budget.”

Rabbi Eric “Yitz” Frank, President School Choice Ohio

How did we get here?

In Governor DeWine’s State of the State address on January 31st, he detailed his initiatives and proposed budget for Ohio.  In his proposed legislation, he demonstrated his support of all educational options through necessary funding, including public school funding, charter school funding, and changes to voucher eligibility (400% FPL) and amounts for more students to access private education for their students. View Governor DeWine’s Executive Budget FY 2024-2025 Budget Highlights

The Ohio House then presented their version of the biennial budget, which included many of the same educational initiatives and financial supports, but took an important, additional step by increasing voucher eligibility to 450% FPL allowing even more families to have the autonomy to choose the best educational fit for their children.

This week, Ohioans saw the proposed state budget legislation from the Ohio Senate.  Members of the Ohio Senate took an even bolder step for Ohio families and their students.  The Senate’s budget proposal allows for universal school choice in Ohio.  ALL students would be eligible and the majority of students (82%) would get the full voucher amount should parents choose to access the state scholarship program.  Students whose household income is greater than 450% FPL will also receive a voucher but on an income-based tiered system, with a 10% minimum amount.

What is extremely important to note is that in all versions of the biennial budget, all school options are getting the supports they need to provide a quality education to students.

Current budget (HB33) initiatives and funding for all school options include:

  • Continued phase-in of the school funding formula for traditional school districts and increases in funding for base costs and per-pupil categorical funding
  • Funding for career tech, facility upgrades, and equipment
  • Establishes a robotic and coding program for Ohio students with funding for equipment and program participation
  • Funding for schools to implement new College Credit Plus programs
  • Charter/Community Schools will continue to be STEM School Fund eligible through the 27-28 school year
  • Increased Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship amounts
  • Qualifies any student with an autism diagnosis for the Autism Scholarship
  • Qualifies online community (charter) schools for English learner funding and makes permanent the funding for online dropout prevention and recovery schools
  • Funding for Literacy training for teachers as well as curriculum in order to help Ohio’s youngest students to acquire a more solid foundation of reading skill.

The reality is that all three proposed versions of the budget support Ohio students through Ohio’s educational options and give parents the ability to make the determination as to what is the best educational fit for their children.  The bills provide the necessary funding through their proposed legislation that will support the necessary tools and resources to benefit every student in the state, regardless of the educational choice parents make for their child’s education.  The alignment of ideology in the three versions of the budget seem to be a very good indicator that the final budget legislation that goes in front of Governor DeWine for signature will be a huge win for Ohio families.

Moving Forward

Considering all of the common initiatives within each version of budget legislation, it would seem safe to expect that the final version of the budget will be a true product of collaboration of Ohio’s elected officials.

It is important to celebrate what will be accomplished through the passage of this legislation versus a few bullet points we were hoping would be included that were not.  Is getting 95% of what we wanted in educational changes a win?  Most people, when considering all of the factors, would say that it is. 

We are close but our work is not done.  We will continue to advocate toward the ultimate goal of true educational freedom for all Ohio families.

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