General Assembly Updates – While both the House and Senate are holding education committee hearings this week, the real work on the most pressing issue continues behind closed doors. That issue of course is what to do about the looming Ed Choice crisis. Hannah News summarized the issue nicely this past week:
“Because of the delayed effects of existing law, expiration of a safe harbor period and changes in the recent state budget, the list of schools at which students are eligible for EdChoice vouchers is set to balloon past 1,200 in the coming school year. Local school leadership groups have endorsed a list of eligibility criteria changes and a request for supplemental funding to offset related budget challenges. Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) is meanwhile hoping to convince lawmakers to use this opportunity to switch to a system based only on family income, rather than local school performance, which would result in funding vouchers directly from the state, rather than via deduction from state funding to local schools.”
There are competing interests in coming up with a solution to the upcoming issue which needs be resolved by February 1. Some legislators would love to see an expansion of school vouchers. Others see the increase of vouchers an attack on public schools. As there is very little time to address the issue, expect to see a short-term fix and expanded discussion later for longer-term resolution.
School Test Waivers/Double Testing – As many of you are aware, the elimination of the Geometry and an ELA 1 end-of-course exams has caused some issues for advanced middle school students. This change will result in double testing for many of these students or force them to take tests not aligned to the curriculum they are learning for the year. This is a case of when federal assessment requirements conflict with the state desire to reduce testing. While there is nothing much that can be done about the elimination of ELA 1 (see the ODE memo at http://www.oagc.com/files/Elimination-of-ELA.pdf ), ODE is seeking input on how to deal with the thousands of students taking advanced coursework in math (see the request for input at http://www.oagc.com/files/Geometry-RequestForComment-DRAFT%20(002).pdf ). OAGC supports one option that ODE has put forth that would be to request an amendment to the previously approved federal waiver that specifies Algebra I as the primary high school test for accountability, while maintaining the expanded middle school waiver for all math tests. This would result in maintaining Geometry as a test for accountability (but not graduation purposes). Without this waiver, not only will advanced students in ELA be subjected to inappropriate tests, but many more thousands of advanced students in math would be as well. Frankly, because of federal requirements, there are not great solutions to this issue.
Future Issues for 2020 – What will the General Assembly be focused on in 2020½ Beyond the issues with Ed Choice vouchers, it is likely that more discussion of HB305, the school funding bill, will take place. In addition, there may be some interest in revamping the report card. Stay tuned as the year progresses.