Update 1/29 9:10 p.m. — The conference committee discussing the private school voucher program EdChoice has left the statehouse for the evening.
House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, said in a statement Wednesday night that representatives have set forth a plan to replace EdChoice with an “entirely poverty-based” system.
“It would allow schools — public and private — to compete more fairly,” Householder said in the statement. “These Opportunity Scholarships would be funded directly and entirely by the state, instead of being deducted from state aid paid to local districts, as is currently the case with the performance-based EdChoice voucher.”
The speaker said the full House would convene at their previously scheduled 1 p.m. regular session on Thursday.
The Ohio House said Wednesday they can’t agree on amendments made to a bill that would change the private school voucher program in the state. This followed a midnight session of the Ohio Senate to send the proposal over to the House chamber.
In doing so, the House also took out an emergency clause of the bill, sending it to conference committee with no timeline on its completion. The Educational Choice Scholarship program as it currently stands is set to open for applications at the end of the week.
House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, did not express concern at the approaching deadline when asked about the problems the House had with the bill. He said it’s “very difficult to predict” whether or not the conference committee now looking at the bill would finish their discussions today, but said he was still confident they would finish by Friday.
“I think we’re in a hurry, but I don’t think we’re in such a hurry that we can’t develop good public policy,” Householder said after the Wednesday’s House session.
The Speaker said there were a number of issues the House had with the amendments passed late last night in the Senate. He said he was hoping for the creation of a joint House-Senate committee to have an “overall discussion” about education. He also said legislators weren’t sure why the part of the bill that dissolved academic distress commissions for schools with a report card of D or higher was included in that form when it only impacts one school district, Lorain County.
“We’re definitely going to put a fix for that, but I’m still trying to feel my way through this to see, it only really affects one district,” Householder said, suggesting that broader language on academic distress commissions might be coming.
The House is also looking at ways of changing the eligibility standard to decrease the number of school buildings that fall under the EdChoice program, and said representatives have “bold ideas” to present before they go back to the Senate with their version of the bill.
The conference committee was scheduled for Wednesday morning, but was expected to recess after opening to work on the bill details.