by J.D. Davidson
School-choice advocates are calling the recently passed Ohio Senate budget proposal as a step in the direction toward more options for parents.
The Senate’s version of the budget includes differences negotiators still must work out with the House’s budget, but it includes a provision that allows parents to create an education savings account for afterschool care. Negotiations begin this week.
“While the new Afterschool Child Enrichment Education Savings Account program is limited, its inclusion in the budget is an important step in helping parents afford desperately-needed resources giving them the flexibility necessary to improve their children’s educational outcomes,” said Rea Hederman, executive director of the Economic Research Center at The Buckeye Institute, a Columbus-based think tank.
The Senate’s version includes $125 million in federal money dedicated to the accounts. Households with students age 6-18 and earning less than 300% of the federal poverty level are eligible, and each student would receive $500 on a first-come, first-served basis until the money runs out, according to the Ohio Education Association.
The funds can be used for things such as tutoring, classes, camps, field trips and other things.
The Senate also proposed removing caps on the number EdChoice scholarships awarded across the state. The scholarships allow children from low and middle-income households to attend private schools of their choice. The proposal also provides full funding for the state’s quality charter school program and helps charter and independent STEM schools with facility costs.
If approved by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine, the proposal eliminates geographic restrictions on charter school startups and allows faith-based charter schools.
“The Senate plan sets forth a bold new vision for K-12 education that puts more power and control into the hands of Ohio families. It supports parents’ inherent right to educate their children in a manner they see fit, and it promotes educational quality,” Aaron Churchill wrote for the Thomas Fordham Institute.
Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, named Sens. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, and Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, to the state budget conference committee. Dolan chairs the Senate Finance Committee.
“As we begin deliberations with the House this week, I look forward to representing my colleagues and our hard work on the state’s two-year operating budget as we reach an agreement that maintains balance and fiscal responsibility, investing in all Ohioans,” Dolan said.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is regional editor for The Center Square.
Photo “Matt Dolan” by The Ohio Senate.