Week in Review > Week In Review 9-18-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on September 19th, 2023
The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) announced Friday that the state’s Rainy Day Fund (RDF) stands at a record of nearly $3.7 billion, “an increase of $174.7 million following the accrual of interest at the close of FY23 and the completion of a cash transfer into the fund” as authorized by the FY24-25 budget bill, HB33 (Edwards). This is an increase over the “historic high” of the fund announced earlier this year when it reached nearly $3.5 billion. Meanwhile, OBM reported August tax revenues were 1.4 percent over estimates.
The online application for grants to help schools cover the cost of travel to the Ohio Statehouse opened on Monday, Sept. 11, at 10 a.m. and remain open until 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) and the Capitol Square Foundation (CSF) announced. A total of 81 schools will receive grants for the 2023-24 academic year. The grants are to help schools defray bus transportation costs for field trips to the Ohio Statehouse and its museum. Each grant’s amount will be based on one-way mileage from the visiting school to the Ohio Statehouse. More information about the program is available at https://tinyurl.com/mwb7b4jv.
The School Bus Safety Working Group met for the first time on Monday, with Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) Director Andy Wilson saying members will examine a wide range of topics to help prevent another school bus fatality from occurring. Gov. Mike DeWine, who attended the meeting, announced the creation of the group following the death of 11-year-old Aiden Clark, a Northwestern Local School District student who was killed when another vehicle collided with his school bus in Clark County. The working group also added two new members — Ohio Association of Pupil Transportation Northeast Region Director Melody Coniglio and Benton Carroll Salem School Board Vice President Jeff Dornbusch.
With a month still to go to qualify for this academic year, Ohioans have sent in three times as many EdChoice applications than they did a year ago, and the state has already granted thousands more scholarships than for 2022-2023. The jump in applications follows state budget action that made most children eligible for full EdChoice awards and every student eligible for at least a partial voucher. According to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), families had submitted 70,487 applications as of Friday, and 29,452 scholarships had been awarded. By comparison, families submitted 26,578 applications last year, and the state made 24,320 awards.
After state lawmakers earlier this year stripped the State Board of Education (SBOE) of most of its powers, more changes could be on the way. Biennial budget bill HB33 (Edwards) mostly sidelines SBOE and the state superintendent in favor of a new governor-appointed director of the renamed Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). The board and state superintendent will retain a small subset of their current powers, mostly around educator licensure, licensee disciplinary actions, and school district territory transfers. A former SBOE member, Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula) presented sponsor testimony in the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee on her proposal to make additional changes to the board. Fowler Arthur’s HB235 reduces the SBOE from 19 members to 15 members, all of whom would be elected based on the 15 congressional districts, moves elections for State Board members from the nonpartisan ballot to the partisan ballot, and provides for primary elections for State Board members.
Ohio issued its first set of overall school and district ratings on state report cards Thursday for the 2022-2023 academic year under the new 5-star evaluation system, with data showing test scores rising from last year but lagging pre-pandemic performance. Ratings distributions show the large majority of schools and districts at or above the 3-star level, the rating given to schools that meet state standards.
The latest biennial budget HB33 (Edwards) included structural changes for the Broadcast Educational Media Commission (BEMC), the state agency responsible for supporting various public broadcasting services in Ohio, including the Ohio Channel. The budget bill removed General Assembly appointments to the commission. During a meeting Thursday, members also discussed hurdles presented by a new joint use agreement and highlighted the progress of a pandemic-era education program that has since expanded in scope.
Ohio State University (OSU) says a proposed class action lawsuit against the school for refusing to refund campuses fees during the COVID-19 shutdown has dragged on too long and will only drag on longer if the Ohio Supreme Court does not immediately declare that “discretionary function immunity” protects government jurisdictions on its face and cannot be reviewed by any court in the state. OSU and a half dozen other Ohio universities are facing class action claims over fees charged for classroom access, technology and lab use, student activities, bus service and the like when campuses were closed by COVID-19 emergency measures. Counsel for Ohio State told the Court Tuesday that the university elected to shut down student facilities in March 2020 — three weeks before Gov. Mike DeWine’s emergency declaration — out of an abundance of caution.
The impact of LGBTQ+ and critical race theory (CRT) on public education was front and center Friday at the Ohio Republican Party’s Central Committee, where members also passed resolutions against the Issue 1 ballot amendment on reproductive and abortion rights and the Issue 2 initiated statute legalizing recreational marijuana, but tabled a resolution calling for partisan school board elections. Central Committee members unanimously opposed K-12 curriculum addressing gender identity, CRT, equity, diversion and inclusion (EDI), social-emotional learning and common core but concluded placing an “R” by school board candidates’ names would hurt rather than help their chances in some districts, especially urban ones.
Property tax relief bill HB197 (Hall-Bird) now includes language to modify how Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) is calculated for farmland. The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday unanimously accepted AM1092, which changes the CAUV process for farmland in counties that undergo a property tax reappraisal or triennial update in 2023, 2024 or 2025. Under the amendment, the farmland’s CAUV “must equal the average of the value calculated for that tax year and the values that would have been assigned if the land were in a county that underwent a reappraisal or update in each of the preceding two years.”
Reps. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown) and Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati) announced introduction Tuesday of legislation to freeze property taxes for Ohioans 70 years and up who earn less than $70,000 per year, saying relief is needed to help seniors stay in their homes amid drastic valuations in home prices and tax valuations.
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