The biennial budget, HB110 (Oelslager), passed the House Wednesday after a final round of changes Tuesday in the House Finance Committee, including police training funds, a venture capital gains income tax deduction, restructuring of the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission and the provisions of broadband expansion measure HB2 (Carfagna-Stewart). “This is a balanced plan that supports Ohio’s schools and students, funds important programs to continue Ohio’s economic recovery, invests in families and individuals, and protects Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens,” said House Finance Committee Chairman Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton). “It is a budget bill we can be proud of.”
Ranking Democrat Erica Crawley (D-Columbus) saw the bill differently. “Democrats wanted to see a bold blueprint for Ohio’s future. That’s not what this budget is. It’s disappointing that Republicans didn’t want to work with us to invest in the working people and families who have faced unprecedented uncertainty over the past year amid the worst public health and economic crisis in our lifetimes. Instead of making the necessary investments to ensure our recovery benefits all Ohioans, Republicans prioritized another round of tax giveaways to the wealthy that we can’t afford right now — not while so many Ohioans are hurting,” she said. The bill passed the House 70-27, with bipartisan support and opposition.
At a Wednesday COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine acknowledged that the state is seeing a number of vaccination sites decline shipments of the first dose of the vaccines for next week, saying they have doses leftover. With 27.5 percent of the state having received both doses and 38 percent, one, both DeWine and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff stressed the need for Ohioans to get vaccinated. Vanderhoff commented how well the vaccination is working — at almost 99 percent effectiveness — and it is holding up very well against the variants.
The state Controlling Board granted a last-minute request by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Monday to add $50.8 million in appropriation authority to the final months of FY21 so that the agency can draw federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for K-12 needs “critical to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response.”
The coalition of Ohio school districts looking to sue the state over the effects of vouchers on education funding is hoping to file its litigation “in the near future,” said William Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, a central figure in the landmark DeRolph school funding cases. Phillis said the Vouchers Hurt Ohio coalition now has 70 member districts and has picked the law firm of Walter Haverfield for the lawsuit.
Members of the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee heard from both proponents and opponents of one proposal for state report card reform, HB200 (Jones-Robinson), during their Tuesday meeting.
The Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee posed numerous questions Wednesday to Superintendent Paolo DeMaria on the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) budget and the state of K-12 education amid the pandemic. Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), the committee chairman, said the panel also plans to bring DeMaria back in early May for further testimony on the effects of the House changes to HB110 (Oelslager), which now includes the Cupp-Patterson school funding plan previously introduced this session as HB1 (Callender-Sweeney).
Ohio teachers unions and organizations representing local school district officials urged a Senate committee to maintain the House’s school funding plan in the budget Thursday, though with some tweaks. The Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee continued hearings on HB110 (Oelslager) with a witness lineup including Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) President Melissa Cropper; Ohio Education Association (OEA) President Scott DiMauro; Will Schwartz of the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA); Kevin Miller of the Buckeye Association of School Administrations (BASA); Katie Johnson of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO); Anthony Podojil of the Alliance for High Quality Education (AHQE); and Craig Burford of the Ohio Educational Service Center Association (OESCA).
The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) approved more than $336 million for six school construction projects at its Thursday meeting, bringing $155 million in state funds together with $181 million in local funding for the projects. Six projects receiving local and state funding include $88 million for Cuyahoga Falls City Schools, $26 million for Manchester Local Schools, $43 million for Rolling Hills Local Schools, $62 million for Triway Local Schools, $49 million for United Local Schools and $65 million for Valley View Local Schools.
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