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Ohio House Votes To Delay Voucher Program, Sending Issue Back To Senate

A teacher in a classroom
Columbus Neighborhoods

The Ohio House has voted on a plan to move the start of Ohio's private school voucher application process back to April 1. The vote came just hours before the EdChoice program is supposed to start accepting applications on Saturday.

The proposal now goes to the Senate on Friday morning, but a statement suggests the vote there may run into problems.  

Talk of a 60-day extension arose after a day of negotiations over a plan that would replace performance-based EdChoice vouchers with income-based vouchers. The extension passed the House 86-5.

But when the extension was attached to a different bill and amended on the floor, state Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) said a deal they’d been trying to work out with the Senate wasn’t happening.

“But it’s vitally important that we avoid the fiscal cliff to which we will be subjecting our public school districts if we do not, in effect, buy us some more time," Seitz said.

If the Senate doesn’t agree, 70% of Ohio’s school districts would have a failing building where students would qualify for EdChoice vouchers, which are paid for by the district. That would more than double the buildings that qualified for EdChoice this school year.

Senate President Larry Obhof said in a statement that students, parents and educators shouldn't have to face uncertainty over the next two months. 

"The long term goal is clear: fix our state report card system so that a school’s ‘grade’ actually reflects its performance," Obhof wrote. "However, it is time to solve the immediate problems before us. We shouldn't be asking Ohio's schoolchildren and educators to wait for months. The Senate's conferees for House Bill 9 are here and are ready to get these issues resolved.”

Lawmakers started their negotiations this week with an amendment from state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) attached to House Bill 9. It passed the Senate earlier this week.

There were signs that lawmakers would attach Householder's proposal on income-based vouchers to Senate Bill 9. In the end, however, ot was a different House bill that was amended and passed.