Week in Review > Week In Review 7-31-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on July 31st, 2023
IT’S IN THE FY24-25 BUDGET
With court orders still in place to block the prior budget’s attempt to penalize schools that can’t consistently transport charter and private school students to class and back home on time, lawmakers took a slightly different approach to addressing the difficulties in bus transportation for school choice families in the new budget. In HB33 (Edwards), lawmakers removed references to “a consistent or prolonged period of noncompliance” and instead specified that schools are out of compliance if they experience five or more consecutive days, or more than 10 total days during an academic year, of certain behavior. That noncompliant conduct includes dropping students off more than 30 minutes before school starts; picking them up more than 30 minutes after it ends; failing to transport students entirely; or failing to comply with any other student transportation requirements in law. Regarding the litigation arguments about ODE’s failure to follow rulemaking procedures when implementing the 134-HB110 (Oelslager) provisions, the department said it does not have information presently on whether the department will go through the formal rulemaking process for the HB33 provisions regarding penalties for transportation compliance problems.
An improving economic outlook coupled with Ohio’s initial experience in resuming eligibility renewals post-pandemic brought Medicaid caseload projections in the final budget down from the administration’s initial estimates. Recent reporting by Ohio to the federal government shows procedural problems are the leading cause of people’s removal from Medicaid. Near the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the federal government started to provide states extra Medicaid matching funds, in exchange for a promise not to remove most people from the program. That state of affairs continued for about three years, leading Ohio’s Medicaid caseload to increase by about 800,000 people and reach a peak of nearly 3.6 million people in May of this year. Upon introduction of HB33 in February, the Ohio Department of Medicaid predicted only 220,000 of those added to the program would be removed in the new biennium, citing a different overall economic environment than the pre-pandemic reality as well as coverage pullbacks and rising costs in commercial insurance. Near the conclusion of budget deliberations, ODM’s updated caseload forecasts instead predicted a decline of about 280,000 people.
The state budget’s funding for schools to provide free feminine hygiene products in bathrooms will increase student attendance across Ohio, Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said Wednesday. “This appropriation in the budget will change the way periods are perceived by students in Ohio,” Antonio said during a press conference in the Ladies Gallery at the Statehouse. “Menstrual products are vital to the health and wellbeing of women and girls. By having period products be both accessible and free in Ohio schools, we can expect attendance in our schools to increase,” Antonio continued. “Research shows that among teenage girls in the U.S. … often or sometimes they can’t do their best schoolwork because they have lack of access to period products. It really gets in the way of them being able to rise to their fullest potential.” HB33 provides $5 million in FY24 for schools to provide free period products in schools. Of the $5 million, $2 million will go toward installing product dispensers and $3 million will go toward purchasing the products.
The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) Thursday was briefed on three new programs it will help oversee thanks to provisions put into biennial budget HB33. Commission Executive Director Matt Dietrich told the commission that the programs include the Grade Crossing Elimination Program proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine, the Wayside Detector Expansion Grant Program and the Orphan Rail Program, the latter two both added by lawmakers. Dietrich said the goal of the grade crossing program is to leverage federal funds, and there will be a lot of flexibility with these funds.
Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in June, the lowest unemployment rate since unemployment rate reporting started in 1976, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The state added 1,000 jobs over the month, going from a revised 5,621,500 in May to 5,622,500 in June. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in June was 200,000, down from 207,000 in May. The number of unemployed has decreased by 24,000 in the past 12 months from 224,000. The June unemployment rate for Ohio decreased 0.5 percent from 3.9 percent in June 2022. The U.S. unemployment rate for June 2023 was 3.6 percent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), unemployment rates were lower in June in 11 states, and stable in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Nonfarm payroll increased in five states, decreased in two states, and was essentially unchanged in 43 states and the District of Columbia.
While the State Board of Education soon will hold only a fraction of its current powers, one former board member who moved on to the General Assembly thinks it can still play an important role as a conduit for public feedback on actions of the renamed and revamped Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). And it can do so better as an all-elected body, according to Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula). In an interview with Hannah News, she said her bill reflects the conversation in recent years about the importance of elected representation and concerns that the board’s size caused difficulties. Under her HB235, the board’s structure would shift from a hybrid of 19 appointed and elected members to 15 members, each of whom would be elected to represent a district aligned to Ohio’s congressional district boundaries.
More than $26 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funding will go to six tutoring vendors to provide services across the state at no cost to schools and districts, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday. Schools and districts should apply to the Ohio Department of Education to access the state-funded high-quality tutoring programs. The investment is a part of “Future Forward Ohio,” the state plan to help students recover from pandemic learning losses. High-dosage tutoring is a key component of that plan. DeWine noted research that shows high-dosage tutoring can produce “large learning gains for a wide range of students, including those who have fallen behind academically.” The state previously awarded $14 million in Statewide Mathematics and Literacy Tutoring Grants to Ohio colleges and universities planning to create or expand mathematics and literacy tutoring programs for Ohio’s K-12 students in one-on-one or small-group settings. In addition, Ohio was one of only five states awarded a grant by Accelerate, a national nonprofit, to drive continued student recovery from the pandemic through evidence-based tutoring models.
The 2023 Ohio School Safety Summit kicked off Tuesday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center with over 1,300 attendees for the two-day event focused on equipping school officials with strategies for improving students’ physical safety and mental well-being. Gov. Mike DeWine established the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC), housed within the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) Division of Ohio Homeland Security, in 2019 as part of an effort to combat gun violence and violence in schools. While speaking at the annual summit, DeWine touted his administration’s focus on student safety and wellness, noting the introduction of Student Wellness and Success Funds (SWSF) for schools which were maintained in the most recent biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards). The budget requires schools and districts to spend at least 50 percent of SWSF on either physical or mental health initiatives or a combination of both.
As school and public libraries have increasingly become the target of groups trying to restrict or ban access to certain books, library leaders in Ohio called the attempt to censor content a “canary in the coal mine for democracy” and discussed how they are handling book challenges. Earlier this year, the American Library Association (ALA) released data showing a striking increase in book ban attempts. The organization documented 1,269 demands to remove books and resources in 2022, the highest number of challenges since the ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago. The 2022 number is nearly double the 729 challenges reported in 2021. A record 2,571 unique titles were challenged, representing a 38 percent increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted in 2021. The vast majority of the challenged titles were written by or about members of the LGBTQ community and people of color, the ALA said. About 58 percent of the targeted books were in school or classroom libraries or school curricula while about 41 percent book challenges targeted materials in public libraries.
According to the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), Thomas C. Patterson, a Northwest Ohio school board member, has been selected as OSBA’s president-elect nominee. If elected during OSBA’s statewide conference in November, he will become OSBA president in 2025 following his term as president-elect in 2024. Patterson, who is in his 18th year on the Sandusky City Schools Board of Education, was first elected in November 2001. He currently serves on OSBA’s Board of Trustees and Board Member Cabinet and is a member of the association’s Northwest Region Executive Committee. He served as region president in 2020.
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