The Ohio Senate Finance Committee unveiled the first revisions made by the Senate to the state biennial budget this past Tuesday. While there were many changes, and many more are expected to be made next week, current revisions included great news for students. The Senate bill maintained the governor’s increase of the high school EdChoice scholarship amount to $5700, raised the amount for all students on a special needs scholarship by 2%, and continued the phase-in of the income-based scholarship.

Following on the heels of a lobbying effort by Agudath Israel, School Choice Ohio, American Federation for Children, and others, the Senate added increased funding to the Jon Peterson and Autism Special Needs Scholarships. Specifically, the state currently allocates up to $32,000 for students with a category 6 disability (e.g. autism) in public schools. Yet, the scholarship amount for students with a category 5 or 6 disability is currently capped at only $20,000. The Senate amendment raises this arbitrary cap to $27,000 which will allow the funding to follow the child the same way that it does for students in the lower categories of special needs and will go a long way to ensuring that these students have more flexibility and educational options to cater to their needs.

The special needs scholarship amount was the main issue discussed with key members of the House of Representatives and with Senate President Pro Tempore Chris Widener during Agudath Israel’s recent advocacy day. Agudath Israel¬†thanks¬†Senate President Faber¬†and¬†the entire Senate for the broad support its members provided for special needs children.

After the Senate votes on this bill, a conference committee will be convened to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions. Agudath Israel’s Ohio Director, Rabbi Yitz Frank, met this week with Speaker Pro Tempore Ron Amstutz and other representatives to ask for support in this matter.

Please take a few minutes to contact your Senator or Representative by phone or email. It would also be helpful to contact the office of House Finance Chairman Rep. Ryan Smith.

Ask for their support in strengthening Ohio’s school choice programs and ensuring that all students have access to the education of their choice by:

  • Maintaining House Bill 64’s ¬†increase of¬†the EdChoice scholarship amount for high school students
  • Supporting Senate changes to House Bill 64¬†that removed the arbitrary $20,000 cap on the special needs scholarships.

Please feel free to contact YFrank@agudathisrael.org to find out what else you can do.

There are a number of other pressing issues that Agudath Israel is working on during this budget process and we hope to share a positive resolution to these issues in the coming weeks.