School Voucher Fix Continues to Evade Ohio Lawmakers

The Senate rejected changes made to SB 89 by the House on Wednesday, leaving many families in limbo while lawmakers continue their search for a solution to Ohio’s private school voucher program.

The bill initially focused on career-technical education but was amended by the House to address the EdChoice Scholarship Program and other topics.

The Senate voted 24-7 to scrap the House changes.

The Senate argued that the plan was not ready for passage, pointing to an ongoing conference committee process on a Senate voucher proposal, HB 9, as the more appropriate bill to fix the issue.

SB 89 has statewide support from education groups.

State Representative Jamie Callender (R-Concord) explained that the House and Senate have slightly different views and the leadership is working them out.

As for Ohio families that are awaiting an answer, Callender said, “Speaking from the House side, we are cognizant of the impact this has on them and we are working diligently to reach a responsible solution.”

Senator Andrew Brenner, who voted to reject the changes, said he saw numerous problems with the bill. “They added a lot of Ed Policy in there that really needs some work,” said Brenner.

Brenner said that it’s more likely the Senate will move forward with HB 9. “That seems like the more intelligent approach to me, instead of conferencing on a bill with the exact same stuff,” he said.

This recent action sets the stage for dueling conference committees, one in support of SB 89 and the other in support of HB 9. Both could potentially address the voucher issue.

Without legislative action, the list of schools in which students are eligible based on their school’s performance would more than double to about 1,200 for the 2020-2021 school year.

The Senate proposal would keep the current numbers while expanding the eligibility threshold for vouchers available based on family income from 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to 300 percent.