COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio House on Wednesday unanimously rejected a Senate-passed bill that aimed to delay a looming expansion of the state’s EdChoice school voucher expansion.
That expansion, if not delayed, will set off an avalanche of school buildings across the state that would have to pay as much as $6,000 each to send some students to private and religious schools next school year.
The House’s rejection of the Senate plan sets the stage for a six-member, Republican-majority conference committee to try to work out a compromise capable of passing both chambers by supermajority margins that would allow House Bill 9 to become law immediately upon getting Gov. Mike DeWine’s signature.
A Saturday deadline looms. That’s the day that parents may begin to apply for EdChoice scholarships based on current law that would subject 1,227 school buildings to the program this fall, up from 517 this year.
Among the disputes:
• The Senate would expand a separate income-based voucher program from those currently earning 200 percent of the federal poverty level - just under $52,000 for a family of four - to those earning 300 percent, roughly $77,000. House Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford) argues that’s too high.
• The Senate bill would remove Lorain city schools from state-appointed Academic Distress Commission control but does nothing about the two other “failing” districts, Youngstown and East Cleveland, under such supervision.
• The bill does not address the lingering controversy over the accuracy and fairness of the Ohio Department of Education report card system through which school performance is judged.
Neither chamber has named conference committee members. The Senate has put off any chance of a vote on a final product until Thursday at the earliest.
The broad expansion for next school year of affected school buildings based on their latest report cards would leave their districts paying $4,650 for K-8 students who opt for a private school and $6,000 for high-school students.
The Senate version would reduce the number of affected school buildings to 420. If Householder has his way, that list would be whittled down to about 188. The Senate bill also holds $30 million to help school districts cover some of the costs.
Regardless of how quickly the conference committee acts, the Senate has put off a vote on the final product until Thursday at the earliest. It appointed Sens. Matt Huffman (R., Lima), Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo), and Bob Peterson (R., Sabina) as its conferees.