Week in Review > Week In Review 4-17-2023Posted by Paul Imhoff on April 19th, 2023
State tax revenues came in $30.6 million ahead of forecasts for March, mostly on the strength of income tax collections, according to preliminary figures from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Total tax receipts reached $1.89 billion last month, or 1.6 percent more than expected. The personal income tax brought in $32.2 million or 5.1 percent more than forecast, reaching $668.2 million. Overperformance of 1.7 percent or $14.3 million in the non-auto sales tax was cancelled out by a $17.7 million or 9.6 percent underperformance in the auto sales tax, leaving total sales tax collections of roughly $1 billion in March below estimates by $3.3 million or 0.3 percent.
The Senate Finance Committee is in for some long and dense hearings next week as it begins informal deliberations on the biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards), while the legislation is still pending in the House. Starting Tuesday, the committee is scheduled to hear from Office of Budget and Management Director Kim Murnieks and Legislative Service Commission Director Wendy Zhan. Following them will be a four-agency panel discussion on the H2Ohio initiative; Ohio Department of Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran; Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder; the office of Secretary of State Frank LaRose; the office of Gov. Mike DeWine; and the House and Senate. On Wednesday, the committee is scheduled to hear from Interim Superintendent Stephanie Siddens of the Ohio Department of Education; the office of Treasurer Robert Sprague; the office of Attorney General Dave Yost; the office of Auditor Keith Faber; the Ohio Supreme Court; and Chancellor Randy Gardner of the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
Groups representing dozens of school districts in cities large and small outlined their major budget priorities this week in a letter to lawmakers, prioritizing continued progress in putting the Cupp-Patterson formula into effect but with more recent data on cost inputs. They also oppose the major expansion of EdChoice scholarships included in Gov. Mike DeWine’s executive budget proposal. The letter came from the Ohio 8 Coalition, which represents major urban districts; the Ohio Mid-sized Urban Districts Leadership Collaborative; and the First Ring Schools Collaborative, a group of Northeast Ohio suburban districts. “As the biennial state budget is debated, Ohio legislators must prioritize investment in public schools. Updating the Fair School Funding formula inputs and limiting the use of vouchers is crucial to the success of Ohio’s 1.6 million students,” they wrote.
With Gov. Mike DeWine’s executive budget proposing to spend $46.5 million over the biennium for the state’s 9-8-8 suicide prevention lifeline, the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation recently wrote the House Finance Committee asking lawmakers to maintain distribution of that funding through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS) rather than going through county boards. The letter, signed by Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation Executive Director Tony Coder, raised concerns over a suggestion that the funds for Ohio’s 9-8-8 Suicide Prevention Lifeline go to county behavioral health authorities rather than Ohio MHAS. The foundation said the executive proposal on 9-8-8 funding and distribution should be maintained.
Amid the stymied search for a permanent superintendent of education and the ongoing legislative debate on the total revamping of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and State Board of Education, Interim Superintendent Stephanie Siddens is moving on to become deputy superintendent of Upper Arlington City Schools, with a tentative start date of July 1. Siddens, a veteran of ODE and member of senior leadership for several years, has been interim superintendent much of the last year and a half in two separate stints. The state has been mostly without a permanent superintendent since the fall of 2021, when Paolo DeMaria retired.
On Tuesday, the SBOE voted to adopt a plan for the appointment of a new interim superintendent following the summer departure of Siddens. Under the plan, Siddens will recommend a list of internal candidates for the position, and the board will interview those candidates in closed-door executive session during the May meeting, then potentially appoint one of them to the position. The board again voted Tuesday to postpone for a month any action on hiring an executive search firm for help filling the superintendent position, given how SB1 (Reineke) and HB12 (Jones-Dobos) would alter the job duties of the superintendent.
A legislative update for SBOE members Monday led to questions about ODE’s lobbying efforts on SB1 and HB12, companion bills that would shift most of the board’s and state superintendent’s powers to a governor-appointed director of the renamed Department of Education and Workforce. Board member Diana Fessler wanted to know if ODE staff had or would testify on either of the two bills. “I’m talking about the demise of the State Board of Education’s regulatory duties. Is that something that you have addressed face-to-face with legislators or staffers?” Fessler asked, later adding, “Are you defending the State Board of Education in the sense that we have no reason to have the rulemaking authority removed from us?”
The State Board of Education then took up and passed an emergency measure Tuesday advocating for the preservation of its general authority over the education system in the face of legislative proposals that would relegate it to a small subset of its current duties. The board voted 13-6 to adopt the “Resolution to Preserve Transparency and Public Participation in Ohio K-12 Education,” sponsored by members Brendan Shea and Christina Collins, both among the 11 elected members of the 19-person board. Most of the eight gubernatorial appointees voted to oppose the resolution, including the board president, Paul LaRue. The resolution describes education oversight as a “shared responsibility” split among the governor, General Assembly, the board, state superintendent and local education leaders, and invokes the 1953 constitutional amendment that created the board. It describes the board as providing “the proper balance between state-mandated policy and local education autonomy” and says its inclusion of elected members “provides the greatest assurance that the will of the public will be well represented.” The resolution urges that the board should maintain “complete rulemaking authority” under laws in Chapter 33 of the Ohio Revised Code, which governs education, and encourages lawmakers to involve the board in policymaking to avoid implementation delays. It further requests that, should lawmakers move ahead with restructuring the board, that the superintendent be made a member of the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board. The resolution also specifically authorizes Ohio Department of Education (ODE) staff to advocate on the board’s “constitutional role in educational oversight.”
Several members of SBOE have suggested that new graduation requirements for the class of 2023 may be overly complicated for students and schools. Interim State Superintendent Stephanie Siddens Monday discussed the requirements, which were adopted in 2019 through the biennial budget, 133-HB166 (Oelslager). In that law, lawmakers scaled back the number of end-of-course exams high school students must pass while creating a system of graduation “seals” reflecting various specializations for students to select. The graduation seals system was proposed by a business-education coalition including Ohio Excels, the Alliance for High Quality Education and the Fordham Institute. The system replaced an earlier set of criteria that provided three pathways based on exam scores, demonstration of college readiness or pursuit of work credentials. This school year’s seniors are the first students who’ll need to meet the latest graduation criteria, which include three basic elements: completion of required credits and coursework; demonstration of competency in math and English; and earning at least two graduation seals, one of which must be a seal with state-designated requirements.
The SBOE’s Literacy and Learning Acceleration Committee started the process Monday of revising the promotion score under the third grade reading guarantee law and had a more general discussion of the literacy improvement policies proposed in Gov. Mike DeWine’s latest executive budget. Notwithstanding a pause during the pandemic years, the promotion score on state English tests that students must achieve in order to move on to fourth grade has been gradually increasing and must be equivalent to the proficiency score by the 2024-2025 academic year. The score is now at 685, and ODE staff proposed to the committee that it be raised to 690; the proficiency score is 700. Alternate assessments also are available for students to show their reading abilities, and a few groups of students are exempt from retention, such as students with IEPs that specifically exempt them and English learners who’ve been enrolled in U.S. schools for less than three years.
Changes to the Afterschool Child Enrichment (ACE) educational savings account program laid out in 134-HB45 (West-Roemer) took effect Friday, doubling the size of the grants that families can receive and expanding eligibility for the program. Qualifying families can now receive a $1,000 credit per child for “enrichment and educational activities” during the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years. Allowable activities include before- or after-school educational programs, day camps, music lessons and tutoring, among others. The expanded eligibility includes children ages 6-18 whose family income is at or below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, who participate in income-based programs such as Medicaid, SNAP and Ohio Works First, or who reside in districts identified as experiencing high rates of chronic absenteeism or include EdChoice-eligible schools. Apply for an ACE educational savings account or browse the ACE Marketplace for service providers at https://www.aceohio.org/.
The Biden administration recently released a proposed change to Title IX regulations that would forbid schools and colleges from enacting categorical bans on transgender athletes in sports but would allow schools to block some transgender athletes based on reasons such as “fairness in competition.” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, “Beyond all the benefits to physical and mental health, playing on a team teaches students how to work hard, get along with others, believe in themselves, and build healthy habits that last a lifetime. Today’s proposed rule is designed to support Title IX’s protection for equal athletics opportunity. We welcome and encourage public comment on the proposed regulation and will continue working to ensure Title IX’s effective protection for all students.” Under the proposed regulation, schools would not be permitted to apply a “one-size-fits-all” policy that outright bans transgender students from participating on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. However, the department said the rule would allow schools to develop “team eligibility criteria that serve important educational objectives, such as ensuring fairness in competition or preventing sports-related injury.”
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted was asked about his views regarding the current situation in the House, and he said he knew how tough it is to be speaker, calling it “a challenge” and saying the members “are going to have to decide what’s most important to them. … I know sometimes when you have political fights, it can be very personal. Sometimes those wounds take a long time to heal, but I hope that frankly this budget process will heal those wounds because they’ll realize what a privilege it is to be a member of the House of Representatives — that you get to make the policy and set the priorities for the state of Ohio, and that all of them will want to participate in that,” he added.
Reps. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) and Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) will be serving as the co-chairs of the campaign arm of the House Republican Caucus, potentially resolving an issue between factions of the majority in the House. The Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA), the campaign organization, announced the selection of the co-chairs this week. “I look forward to working together, supporting all of our Republican members and ensuring the Ohio House remains a model for conservatism,” said House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) in a statement. “Being named co-chair of OHRA is a great honor, and I look forward to working with him and my co-chair Jeff LaRe in these efforts,” Plummer said. Control of OHRA was in dispute after Stephens and a number of Republicans joined with House Democrats to elect Stephens speaker over Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee), the choice of an internal caucus vote. Merrin and Plummer, who was set to become speaker pro tempore under Merrin, had announced earlier this year that they had been elected chair and vice chair of OHRA, respectively, which Stephens disputed. At that time, Plummer had suggested that Republicans could sue Stephens over control of the fund, but said he and others would try to negotiate a solution.
Freshman Rep. Thad Claggett (R-Newark) told Hannah News that his experience in the construction industry will serve his constituents well as his district and the state deals with the major economic growth and workforce demands from Intel and other investments around Ohio that “are well within his wheelhouse.” He also notes he has learned the value of listening without interrupting – a skill he believes will serve him in the Legislature.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted called Tuesday’s Choose Ohio First Scholarship Showcase — an annual event last held in person in 2020 — “what we hoped for” when he worked to create the program as House speaker in 2007. The event included 32 poster presentations by Choose Ohio First scholars and was held in the Statehouse Atrium. Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Chancellor Randy Gardner called it “a celebration of what’s right in higher education in Ohio” and noted there have been approximately 22,500 scholars in the program since it was created. In response to a press question, Husted said the Choose Ohio First program has helped women, minority and “non-traditional” students who are an essential part of fulfilling STEM talent needs. He added that is one of the elements he is most proud of in regard to the program.
Asked about Sen. Jerry Cirino’s (R-Kirtland) SB83, Husted said the bill seeks to “modernize the law to help these colleges and universities navigate a changing landscape” with fewer students due to demographic shifts, more employers willing to hire non-college graduates and the economics of higher education becoming “very difficult.” That requires modernization in how universities work, and Husted said he thought Cirino was seeking their feedback as part of the process.
Wilberforce University recently announced the selection of Vann R. Newkirk as the university’s 23rd president. Newkirk, who will assume the presidency in July, succeeds Elfred Anthony Pinkard, who announced his retirement as president in March 2022. Wilberforce University is one of two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in Ohio. Newkirk currently serves as an interim associate vice president at Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, and he is a former president of Fisk University in Nashville, where he also served as that university’s provost and vice president of academic affairs.
Ohio libraries statewide have offered patrons free access to the online workforce training platform LinkedIn Learning (LIL) — formerly Lynda.com — since 2018, but usage surged early in the pandemic and now reflects the changing labor market in terms of some of the most-viewed video courses. Ohio became the first state with that level of access when the Ohio Library Council (OLC), Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) and LinkedIn announced their partnership and the platform moved from the Lynda name to LinkedIn Learning in 2021. Patrons can access the site’s tutorials without having to be at a library location, and many did at the start of the pandemic.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (Ohio MHAS) has been awarded a $2.9 million federal grant to help state officials meet the behavioral health needs of citizens affected by traumatic events such as natural disasters, mass shootings and other large-scale man-made and terrorist events, Gov. Mike DeWine announced. Ohio MHAS will use the funding to help establish statewide and local partnerships, policies, procedures and protocols that create the systemic changes necessary to immediately deploy essential behavioral health supports and resources across the state in the aftermath of tragedies. This additional federal funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act comes nearly a week after Ohio MHAS was awarded a $209,402 federal Supplemental Emergency Response grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to help meet the immediate and ongoing behavioral health needs of the East Palestine community.
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