EdChoice Voucher Battle Pits House And Senate Leaders Against Each Other

Feb 7, 2020

With just hours to go before families could submit applications for the state’s EdChoice private school voucher program on February 1, lawmakers delayed that window till April 1 till they could work out a compromise. And those chambers’ Republican leaders are holding fast to their different proposals.

The Senate’s plan has 420 school buildings eligible for EdChoice, and would increase income-based vouchers to 300% of the federal poverty level - $78,000 for a family of four.

Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medinda) said his chamber’s plan was on point and on time.

“For the specific problem that that should have been dealt with by February 1st, we had a solution for that. We passed it in time for that," Obhof said in an interview on Thursday.

But Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) wants the House’s plan passed this week, which after next school year replaces EdChoice with all income-based vouchers at 250% of poverty.

“I think there'll be a number of senators that probably may quietly, just quietly agree with us. This is the fix. It's the right way to go. It's the right thing to do," Householder said while speaking to reporters after House session late Wednesday night, when they passed that plan.

So far, the Senate hasn't voted on the House-passed plan. Obhof said on Thursday it hadn't been sent over from the Senate, even though he notes it passed with an emergency clause. And a spokesman suggests there are concerns about some of the amendments in that proposal, which were unvetted and added without hearings.

If lawmakers can’t agree, the number of EdChoice eligible buildings will balloon to 1,227 on April 1.

Householder has been vocal in his support for his chamber's proposal, talking about it on Twitter:

Obhof hasn't mentioned his chamber's EdChoice plan on Twitter, but his spokesman has defended it:

 

School groups have been supportive of Householder's plan, largely because income-based vouchers are paid by the state, and not by school districts as EdChoice vouchers are.

There has been widespread agreement that the state's criteria for determining failing schools needs to be examined. Several lawmakers and Gov. Mike DeWine have said the A-F state school report card system instituted in 2012 is likely to be scrapped.

But a group representing businesses and higher-performing districts is saying it has supporters.  Ohio Excels said its poll of public school parents shows support for the A-F grading system as easy to understand and an appropriate way to rate schools.

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