The two-year, $61.7 billion state budget approved by the state Senate Thursday would expand funding for public schools over the current state budget, change how state funding is distributed among schools and expand Ohio’s current school voucher program statewide.
Among the many changes in the budget:
- A new school funding formula that would replace the “temporary” formula currently in place. The new formula would focus on giving school districts a base amount of money per pupil. It’s similar to the “Building Blocks” school funding formula Ohio tried out under Gov. Bob Taft.
- An additional $720 million for public schools over the amount current state budget, an 11-percent increase, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Like the budgets proposed by Gov. John Kasich and the House, the Senate budget would keep school funding “guarantees” in place. A guarantee ensures a school district doesn’t see its state funding fall, even if its enrollment does.
- An expansion of Ohio’s existing school voucher program throughout the state. Currently only children assigned to low-performing schools (or living in Cleveland) are eligible for vouchers. The voucher expansion would make students from low-income families in every district eligible for vouchers. It would start with kindergarteners and first graders in families making less than $47,100 for a family of four.
Other provisions would:
- Require public schools to allow homeschooled and private-school students to participate in extracurricular activities;
- Allow students who are enrolled in out-of-state correspondence-school classes to receive a diploma without passing the state graduation tests required of other students, a practice the Ohio Department of Education has previously called unacceptable; and
- Exempt students in online schools and students with disabilities from state physical education requirements.
After a House vote next week, the budget will go to a conference committee, a small group of legislators from both the House and the Senate who will shape the budget’s final version. After approval by the House and Senate, the revised budget will then head to the governor to review, make any line-item vetoes and approve.