Governor Mike DeWine is expected to sign the state budget bill, House Bill 166, into law today. HB 166 is chock full of education provisions that extend far beyond the dollars and cents of funding allocations. Some of these provisions will have major impacts on how schools operate, while others are new proposals that, if implemented with fidelity, could significantly improve educational outcomes for students. Here’s an overview of the changes and why they matter.
Postsecondary readiness, accountability, and testing
Academic Distress Commissions
- What the budget did: Preserved the academic distress commissions that are currently in place in Youngstown, Lorain, and East Cleveland, but established a moratorium on any new commissions for the 2019–20 school year. The Superintendent of Public Instruction must resume establishing commissions beginning on October 1, 2020.
- Why it matters: The moratorium prevents Dayton Public Schools—the only district that could have been placed under the control of an academic distress commission based on a low overall rating on its forthcoming school report card—from ending up under state control for at least the next year. It also gives legislators some additional time to make sure that the structure in place for ADCs is the right one moving forward.
- What the budget did: Put into law a new and permanent set of graduation requirements that will start with the Class of 2023. These provisions are based on a proposal by Ohio Excels, the Alliance for High Quality Education, and Fordham. These requirements expect students to earn passing marks on two high school end-of-course exams or meet career-technical or military-readiness targets. Graduates must also earn at least two diploma “seals,” among a variety of state- and locally-approved options, and meet longstanding course-taking requirements.
- Why it matters: Unlike a competing proposal offered by the State Board of Education, the enacted provisions are objective, comparable, and valid. Students will have a variety of ways to demonstrate what they know and can do, but high expectations are applied to everyone. At long last, the Buckeye State can finally stop debating what to do about graduation standards.
Value-added grade scale for state report cards
- What the budget did: Modified the scale used to determine the letter grades assigned to districts and schools for the value-added progress indicator that tracks pupil growth over time. For instance, under previous law, a value-added index score of two or above was designated as an A. Under the new law, a score of just one or above will be designated as an A. The legislation changed the performance benchmarks for the other ratings as well.
- Why it matters: These changes will result in higher value-added grades for many schools and districts, which will in turn also inflate overall grades. The increase in A-rated schools will make it more difficult to pinpoint schools that are significantly boosting student growth. And with fewer low value-added ratings, it may also reduce student eligibility for the traditional EdChoice Scholarship program, which is based in part on district schools’ value-added ratings.
Automatic closure for charter schools
- What the budget did: The previous law required the automatic closure of any charter school that earned low school ratings during two of the three most recent school years. The budget altered this provision to require mandatory closure after three consecutive years of poor ratings. This change takes effect immediately when the act becomes law.
- Why it matters: At first glance, this could appear to be an example of lawmakers walking back accountability, as it could reduce the number of charter schools that are subject to automatic closure. But Ohio’s sponsor evaluation system has put more pressure on authorizers to close poor-performing schools, and the state’s overall accountability framework has become more rigorous (for both district and charter schools), resulting in more charters being at-risk of mandatory closure than originally intended under this law.
Dropout prevention and recovery schools
- What the budget did: There were three major changes for dropout recovery charter schools. First, the budget modified the state test passage rate indicator, which measures student proficiency on high school exams. Second, it requires the Ohio Department of Education to recalculate 2017–18 report card ratings for dropout recovery schools, and prohibits the automatic closure of dropout recovery schools based on report cards issued during the 2017–18 and 2018–19 school years if a school’s overall rating meets or exceeds standards based on the updated passage rate indicator. Finally, it altered automatic closure provisions to match the changes made for other charters. Automatic closure now occurs after three consecutive years of a “does not meet standards” rating.
- Why it matters: Correcting a technical problem with how Ohio measures the academic performance of students in dropout recovery schools is important, and it’s common sense to also align dropout recovery schools’ automatic closure rules to those governing other charter schools.
- What the budget did: There were four big changes to the EdChoice Scholarship program. (1) All low-income students in grades K–12 will be eligible for EdChoice income-based scholarships starting in 2020–21; without this change, eligibility would have been limited to students in grades K–7. (2) Traditional and income-based EdChoice scholarships will now have a year-round application window. (3) If the number of applications for traditional EdChoice scholarships exceeds 90 percent of the current cap, an automatic increase in the number of scholarships available will go into effect the following year. And (4) scholarships are computed based on the amount prescribed by law, or the base tuition amount of the school in which a student enrolls minus applicable tuition reductions—whichever amount is smaller.
- Why it matters: Ohio has a thriving school choice environment, of which its five voucher programs are a huge part. The EdChoice Scholarship program, in particular, has provided thousands of low-income families with the opportunity to choose the school that best fits their student’s needs. The changes put forth in this budget not only extend these options to more Ohio families, especially those with middle and high school students, they also make it easier to access them.
Charter school funding
- What the budget did: Allocated $30 million per year in supplemental state aid for high-performing charter schools. Schools will receive an additional $1,750 per pupil for economically disadvantaged students and $1,000 per pupil for non-disadvantaged students.
- Why it matters: Ohio charter schools face significant funding shortfalls, so these new funds are sorely needed. They will likely be instrumental in kick-starting the opening of new schools, aiding in the growth of high performing charters, and making Ohio an attractive location for quality out-of-state networks looking to expand. In other words, these new funds will translate to an increase in quality school options for the students who need them most.
- What the budget did: Allows a charter school sponsor (i.e., authorizer) that earns an overall rating of “effective” or “exemplary” for at least three consecutive years to be evaluated by the Ohio Department of Education once every three years going forward.
- Why it matters: The sponsor evaluation system is a critical part of ensuring that charter schools are held accountable for performance. But the compliance and practices components of these evaluations are an incredibly time-consuming and burdensome process, preventing sponsors from devoting more of their time to oversight and technical assistance. Allowing high-quality sponsors to be evaluated once every three years instead of annually lessens these administrative burdens.
- What the budget did: Under previous law, school districts were required to offer to sell or lease school facilities that hadn’t been used in two years to charter, STEM, and college-preparatory boarding schools located within the district borders. The budget changes state law to require a district to offer to sell or lease facilities that have not been used for only one year.
- Why it matters: It’s no secret that charter schools are often forced to locate in inadequate facilities. By requiring districts to offer their unused facilities after one year instead of two, lawmakers have taken a step forward in solving the charter facilities conundrum (though there’s still plenty left to do).
Other funding initiatives
Funding for industry credentials
- What the budget did: Established a $25 million appropriation dedicated to helping high school students earn industry-recognized credentials. Half of these funds will go to establishing and operating the Innovative Workforce Incentive Program, which will pay public schools $1,250 for each qualifying credential earned by a student.
- Why it matters: Industry credentials can lead to rewarding and well-paying careers, but less than 5 percent of Ohio graduates earned one in 2017–18. Appropriating a sum that targets credentialing programs and incentivizes student completion ensures that Ohio continues to expand K–12 pathways toward post-secondary attainment, a crucial part of meeting Ohio’s Attainment 2025 goal.
Student wellness funds
- What the budget did: Over the next two fiscal years, allocated a $675 million pot of funds for all public schools, awarded on a per-pupil basis according to the percentage of low-income children residing in a district, to improve student wellness by addressing non-academic needs.
- Why it matters: The evidence that student wellness services can impact academic outcomes is mixed, but supporting student health and wellness for its own sake is commendable. If the state implements this program effectively by offering schools detailed information on quality service providers and keeping track of which programs improved student outcomes, then Ohio could become a national example.
- What the budget did: Senate Bill 216, which was passed in 2018, requires public school teachers to be “properly certified or licensed,” which means they must possess one of the state’s approved teacher licenses. The budget eliminates the requirement for teachers in traditional districts, charter schools, and STEM schools to be “properly certified or licensed.”
- Why it matters: More and more educators are entering the classroom via non-traditional routes. In Ohio, many tend to work under long-term substitute licenses until they meet state requirements for traditional or alternative licensure. Requiring these teachers to be “properly certified or licensed” would cost Ohio schools, especially charters that hire more non-traditional teachers, a vital aspect of their hiring and recruitment flexibility. By eliminating this provision from state law, the budget makes it easier for charters and school districts to compete for much-needed talent by permitting them to hire talented but non-traditionally trained individuals.
NOTE: Governor DeWine used his line-item veto power to eliminate these licensure provisions for school districts.
Alternative teacher preparation
- What the budget did: Nontraditional teacher candidates who apply for an alternative resident educator license are required to complete a pedagogical training institute, which provides candidates with training in foundational areas such as student development, assessments, curriculum, and classroom management. Under previous law, these programs were offered by nonprofit organizations. The budget alters the law to allow candidates to complete programs that are operated by for-profit organizations as well, so long as they are approved by the Chancellor of Higher Education.
- Why it matters: Nontraditional teacher candidates face many barriers to entering the profession. This change would remove one of those barriers by increasing the training options that are available. Requiring programs to be approved by the chancellor also functions as an important quality check.