The House has voted on a plan to move the start of Ohio's private school voucher application process ahead to April 1, just hours before the EdChoice program is supposed to start accepting applications on Saturday. It now has to go to the Senate this morning, and a statement suggests the vote there may run into problems.
Talk of a 60 day extension came after a day of negotiations over a plan that would replace performance-based EdChoice vouchers going forward with income-based vouchers.
But when it was attached to a different bill and amended on the floor, Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) said a deal they’d been trying to work out with the Senate wasn’t happening.
“But it’s vitally important that we avoid the fiscal cliff to which we will be subjecting our public school districts if we do not, in effect, buy us some more time," Seitz said.
The extension passed the House 86-5.
If the Senate doesn’t agree, 70 percent of Ohio’s school districts would have a failing building where students qualify for EdChoice vouchers – more than double the buildings that qualified for EdChoice this school year.
Lawmakers had started their negotiations this week with an amendment from Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) attached to House Bill 9. It passed the Senate earlier this week. There were signs that lawmakers would attach Householder's proposal on income-based vouchers to Senate Bill 9. But in the end, it was a different House bill that was amended and passed.
Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) issued a statement after the vote, suggesting the vote may not be smooth.
"The Senate’s approach to these issues was the culmination of months of work. This included meetings with schools, parents and taxpayers, and substantial discussions across both sides of the political aisle. The resulting amendments to House Bill 9 achieved a bipartisan, supermajority vote to improve Ohio’s EdChoice program while simultaneously solving the concern that hundreds of traditional public schools might be unfairly categorized as ‘underperforming'", Obhof's statement said. "The long term goal is clear: fix our state report card system so that a school’s ‘grade’ actually reflects its performance. However, it is time to solve the immediate problems before us. We shouldn't be asking Ohio's schoolchildren and educators to wait for months. The Senate's conferees for House Bill 9 are here and are ready to get these issues resolved.”