After nearly a full week of debate and back and forth, the Ohio Senate decided to agree to a 60-day delay for the private school voucher education program, with the hope of a better plan as a result.
“I have to vote yes because I can not in clear conscience at midnight tonight… allow those schools to go on a list that suggests they are underperforming or failing,” said Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, who created the amendments the Senate originally sent to the House earlier in the week.
The amendments, attached to Senate Bill 120 — otherwise regarding performance audits and public-private partnerships for higher education — were approved by the House in a late-night session on Thursday.
The House produced amendments that extended the application deadline from Feb. 1 to April 1, so a more permanent fix could be discussed, representatives said during their Thursday night session. Those amendments were created in response to proposals from the Senate attached to House Bill 9, a measure that some hope can be brought back up as venue for the EdChoice fixes.
Several senators rejected the House amendments on Friday because they said the problem was not fixed by setting back the deadline, and schools already planning to gain or lose EdChoice students would be left wondering about their next steps, along with the students themselves.
“We were sent here to do a job, to represent parents,” said state Sen. Stephanie Kunze, R-Hilliard. “It’s unacceptable that we can not solve this by midnight tonight.”
Many of those who did vote for it, however, said they weren’t doing so because they agreed with the amendments, but because they hoped for a bigger solution to the underlying issues with the voucher program and the report card system.
“I don’t like the idea of resetting the clock again, at the same time, I don’t think falling off the cliff is a good idea either,” said state Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood.
State Sen. John Eklund, R-Munson Township, said he was setting his hopes on the “resiliency of Ohioans,” even if he didn’t totally agree with the process taken so far.
“I’m going to vote yes on this because the alternative is doing nothing,” Eklund said.
The Ohio Federation of Teachers showed concern over the delay, fearing an entirely income-based voucher system, like the one House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, supports, would drain the state coffers and cause another problem for the state budget.
“We hope that legislators use this extra time to listen to educators, community school boards, and parents who have been urging, for years, that the legislature fulfill their constitutional duty to create a fair and equitable public school funding formula,” said Melissa Cropper, executive director of the OFT, in a statement.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 120 on a vote of 23 to 6. Friday night, Governor Mike DeWine’s office confirmed he had signed the bill.