COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — Ohio Senators approved a late-night deal Tuesday to fix a school choice program that is causing a lot of controversy.
The 27 -6 vote on HB 9 stopped a planned expansion of the state's EdChoice program set to expand Saturday. The expansion could have meant major financial hardships for school districts across the state.
Representatives in the Ohio House are expected to begin debating the matter Wednesday morning. Any change would require convening a conference committee to work out the differences.
Tuesday started with a proposal to fix the EdChoice program from a senator from the Cleveland area. He suggested freezing expansion for at least two years, preventing thousands of students from becoming eligible.
As passed by the Senate, the plan reduces the number of eligible buildings to 425 schools by excluding schools with an overall state report card grade of A, B, C, and some D grades. State Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said the number schools is currently set grow to more than 1,220.
The senate-passed plan raises the voucher program's income guidelines from 200% to 300% of the federal poverty level, and amendment allocates $30 million to schools where students have been granted vouches.
The EdChoice program became a major issue as new criteria has been approved for next school year enabling thousands more students to be eligible to apply for the voucher. In the program, the state deducts up to $6,000 from a child's local school district to send that child to a private or parochial school.
Expanded criteria uses a school's performance index or graduation rate based on the state report card. In Columbus City Schools, students from 100 out of 109 schools would have been able to apply for an EdChoice voucher next school year. Suburban districts in the area also said they would not be able to afford a major increase in these deductions.
Once passed out of committee, the amendment would go to the Senate floor for a vote. The Senate will have to put an emergency clause on the fix to pass it immediately and send it to the House.