Early Thursday morning the Ohio House and Senate formally agreed on a budget that reconciled differences between the two chambers. The Senate voted on the budget on Thursday and the House followed today.
“This budget is great news for Ohio and was particularly groundbreaking for students and nonpublic schools” stated Agudath Israel’s Ohio director, Rabbi Yitz Frank at the Ohio Jewish Communities annual meeting on Thursday, several short hours after the agreement was announced. “This budget broke new ground in ensuring that all students have the resources and choices they need to receive a high quality education.” Among numerous other provisions, the budget included several of Agudath Israel’s highest priorities including:
- Increased the scholarship amount available for students with a high level of special needs from $20,000 to $27,000 per student.
- Increased the EdChoice Scholarship, used by hundreds of students to attend Jewish day schools in Ohio, from $4250 to $4650 at the elementary level and from $5000 to $5900 at the high school level. This is the first increase since the inception of the program! This change will make a profound difference for families and will allow more schools to participate in this scholarship program.
- Maintained changes that Governor Kasich proposed to allow more students to access scholarships.
- Increased the amount that the state provides nonpublic schools through the Administrative Cost Reimbursement Program from $360 per student to $420 per student. The appropriation for this program was also increased in line with the same percentage increase to traditional public schools.
- Increased the per-pupil amount of the Auxiliary Services Program (which provides nonpublic schools with textbooks, educational equipment and diagnostic, therapeutic, and remedial personnel services)
- Creating additional testing options for nonpublic schools. Following 18 months of discussions, the Legislature granted important and necessary flexibility for nonpublic schools that both recognizes the autonomy of these schools and assures accountability to the state. Nonpublic high schools can now opt out of the state tests as long as students score at a remediation free level on the ACT or SAT. Schools will also have the option to utilize a new array of assessments chosen by each individual school. Additionally, schools with a special accreditation may opt out entirely.
Together with its coalition partners, Agudath Israel worked on many other provisions that strengthened the school choice programs and other educational provisions in Ohio. While some of these issues did not have direct impact for Jewish day schools, they are important to Agudath Israel’s long term education policy goals for Ohio.
Governor Kasich should be commended for his strong leadership and belief in providing opportunity for every child, which truly set the tone for a budget that will have a lasting and profound impact on Ohio. Agudath Israel thanks Senate President Faber, Speaker Rosenberger and our many allies in the House and Senate for helping craft the strongest possible bill.