Week in Review > Week in Review 2-27-2023Posted by Thomas Perkins on February 27th, 2023
Ohio children from Medicaid-eligible families will automatically qualify for free or reduced-price school meals in the coming school year after approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The policy complements existing practices for qualifying children for meals if they’re in households receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF). The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced it is one of 14 states recently selected by USDA for the “Direct Certification with Medicaid Demonstration Project” starting in the 2023-2024 academic year. The program uses Medicaid data to certify children as eligible for free or reduced-price meals without an additional application, and ODE says it will ensure more children receive meals. As of October, an estimated 677,000-plus Ohio children qualified for free or reduced-price meals.
A representative of the Hunger-Free Schools Ohio Coalition set a price tag of $200 million in state money Monday to provide free breakfast and lunch to all K-12 students, regardless of a family’s ability to pay. The coalition hosted a press conference with members including the Ohio Education Association (OEA), Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), school district staff and parents. “Every child in Ohio, regardless of where they’re from, what they look like or how much money their parents make, needs to be able to eat full, nutritionally complete meals at school … allowing them to focus on what they’re learning, not on the hunger pangs they’re feeling,” said OEA President Scott DiMauro, who hosted the discussion.
The chair of the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee and a Democratic colleague introduced legislation to require automated external defibrillators in schools and sports and recreation centers across the state. Rep. Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati), the committee chair, and Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester), introduced their proposal as HB47.
The summer coaching period will include 13 days instead of 10, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Board of Directors unanimously decided recently. The board also voted to open the summer period on May 15, instead of June 1. Additionally, fall sports may begin practice on July 31, instead of Aug. 1. The changes were proposed by OHSAA staff in consultation with various coach associations. The summer period changes are effective immediately and apply to the team sports of football, soccer, volleyball, field hockey, ice hockey, basketball, lacrosse, softball and baseball.
The Senate Education Committee Tuesday adopted a handful of amendments on K-12 governance overhaul measure SB1 (Reineke) and heard from numerous witnesses on the proposal. The committee accepted three changes that are meant to address rulemaking, qualifications of senior staff at the proposed Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) and stakeholder engagement. Among numerous witnesses providing in-person or written testimony in opposition to SB1 Tuesday were sitting members of the State Board of Education.
Leaders of private schools, parents and students urged the Senate Education Committee in testimony Tuesday to approve a broad expansion of the EdChoice scholarship program to all Ohio students regardless of income or their local schools’ performance. The committee took proponent testimony in person and in writing on SB11, Sen. Sandra O’Brien’s (R-Rome) bill to allow all any student to receive an EdChoice voucher starting in the coming academic year. The legislation also would expand the tax deduction for home schooling expenses. Troy McIntosh, representing the Ohio Christian Education Network, said the legislation highlights the contrast between advocating for funding students versus systems. “I stand in support of funding students knowing that we need a full array of systems, pedagogies, approaches and philosophies to meet the many different needs of Ohio’s students,” he said.
The House Primary and Secondary Education Committee had its first hearing on the ODE overhaul legislation Tuesday, with Reps. Don Jones (R-Freeport) and David Dobos (R-Columbus) giving sponsor testimony on HB12, a companion to SB1 (Reineke). The two sponsors, both with backgrounds in public education, said the current education structure is “failing our children” in both academic achievement and by “not adequately” connecting students to their purpose. Not enough attention is given to career-technical education, Dobos said. A “systemic change” is needed to refocus the system on Ohio’s students, he added. Jones noted there are some changes from 134-SB178, as it aims to guarantee homeschooling families “the ability to home educate their child by exempting a child from compulsory school attendance when that child is receiving instruction in core subject areas from their parents.”
Members of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) heard an update on the K-12 School Safety Grant Program during their monthly meeting Thursday. The program, which launched in 2021 and is administered in a partnership between OFCC and the Ohio School Safety Center, has seen five rounds of funding, including one that is ongoing. Using both federal and state dollars, the program provides grants to schools for physical safety and security upgrades. Some of the most common uses of the funding have been to purchase security cameras, public address systems, automatic door locks, visitor badging systems, exterior lighting and emergency communication systems.
Trustees of the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) split down the middle on a recent vote expressing their sentiments about Executive Director William Neville’s leadership, amid escalating retiree criticism of system management. However, the board chair later expressed “complete confidence” in Neville, citing overall strong funding, the return of inflationary increases and new health care policies. Julie Sellers, a recently elected trustee who’s been critical of the approval of investment staff performance bonuses, moved the vote of confidence in Neville’s leadership. The motion failed on a tie vote. Voting yes to express confidence in Neville were the board chair, Carol Correthers, vice chair, Dale Price, and members Claudia Herrington, Scott Hunt and Arthur Lard. Voting no in addition to Sellers were members Rudy Fichtenbaum, Steven Foreman, Elizabeth Jones and Wade Steen.
State pension systems joined investors generally in suffering through a largely rough 2022 that included atypical dynamics making it rougher still, but the experience proved the value of going beyond “plain vanilla” stock and bond holdings, an investment expert told the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) Thursday. Thursday’s meeting opened with the election of Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) as chair and Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) as vice chair, flipping their roles from last year. Jim Voytko of RVK, the contracted investment consultant for the council, gave a presentation on the first-half performance for the pension funds in 2022 and on general market performance for the entirety of 2022. That year was unusual in seeing both stocks and bonds fall, departing from the usual trend where stock market dives send investors fleeing to fixed-income assets, which then rise. “This was an unusual year, and that counterbalancing effect disappeared,” he said. The dual drop also matters because stocks and bonds are typically the largest asset allocations.
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