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Senate Approves House Measure To Extend EdChoice Debate

Ohio Senate debating House-approved extension to EdChoice debate on the Senate floor.
Andy Chow
Ohio Senate debating House-approved extension to EdChoice debate on the Senate floor.

As the clock ticked down to a February 1 deadline for lawmakers to make a change to a school voucher program, the Ohio Senate approved a House measure to delay the issue.

Senate Republicans and Democrats displayed frustration that the House did not move on a bill that would have made changes to the EdChoice voucher program. However, the Senate still decided to approve the House-passed measure to extend the issue.

There are two paths towards EdChoice voucher eligibility. One is income-based, which is currently set at 200% of the federal poverty level. The other is based on academic performance. Students that attend schools designated as low-performing can qualify for the voucher.

But most lawmakers in the Ohio Legislature agree that the methodology for determining a low-performing school is flawed. The current method would put 1,227 schools on the low-performing list for the 2020-2021 school year. That would be twice as much as the current list at 517 schools.

Lawmakers were discussing a potential change to the system found in HB9. That measure would have only made a school eligible for the EdChoice program if it received an overall "F" grade on its report card. That change would lower the number of schools on the list to about 420.

But HB9 would have also increased the income-based threshold from 200% of the federal poverty level to 300%. That means a family of four with a household income of about $78,000 would qualify for vouchers.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate seemed to not agree on these changes and a conference committee, made up of lawmakers from both chambers, did not reach compromise.

The extension moves the voucher application process to begin on April 1, giving the legislature 60 days to continue its work on the issue.

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