The Ohio House of Representatives passed its version of the Ohio biennial budget, Substitute House Bill 64, this past Wednesday. After introducing a substitute bill and adding a subsequent omnibus amendment, the budget is significantly different than the governor’s proposed budget. Agudath Israel was gratified that the House retained two important changes to the EdChoice voucher program that were part of the governor’s proposal. Specifically, the budget would add additional grades to the EdChoice income-based Expansion Program and increase the high school scholarship amount to $5700.

Some of the changes that the House made to the budget that are of interest to chartered non-public schools include:

  • Establish a task force on school transportation that will examine a number of topics on public school transportation, including the responsibility and obligations to bus private school students
  • Extend safe harbor provisions for two years for students on scholarships-taking state assessments. This would allow students who opt out of the state tests to retain their scholarships, although testing is generally required for these students
  • Prohibit any¬†requirement¬†for a nonpublic secondary school to participate in College Credit Plus
  • Specify that a private secondary school located in a district within 5 miles of Cleveland located in a municipality with a population greater than 15,000 is eligible to participate in the Cleveland Scholarship program
  • Increase the cap from $360 to $420 per pupil that a chartered nonpublic school is reimbursed for clerical and administrative expenses, if appropriations are sufficient
  • Reinstate the exemption for ISACS-accredited schools from the high school graduation assessment requirements and the requirement to take the high school end-of-course exams
  • Reinstate the current exemptions for nonpublic schools and scholarship students

The House made many changes to general education requirements and it is unclear at this time how these changes will interface with graduation requirements as well as other related issues. Agudath Israel is advocating for these issues, as well as other items in the Ohio Senate. Another change that Agudath Israel would like to see is that the current caps be lifted on reimbursement for students with special needs that are receiving a Jon Peterson Scholarship. Students with a high level of special needs (category 5 and 6) should be able to access a scholarship that matches the state aid amount that is already being appropriated for these students. Overall, while much work remains, the House budget was positive for chartered nonpublic schools.