OFT President Melissa Cropper: Legislature Should Stop Using Budget to Pass Policy

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Columbus – The Ohio Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed their omnibus budget bill, which now heads to the full Senate floor. The bill deviates from the normal legislative process by including policy changes on expansion of vouchers, school report cards, and graduation requirements, that have either not been subject to committee hearings or have failed to advance out of committees in previous General Assemblies. Additionally, the bill leaves out bipartisan language on Academic Distress Commissions that was included in the House version.

“The policies that shape education for Ohio’s children are too important to be rushed through as add-ons to the state budget, especially when there is so little support for those policies that they have been unable to advance out of committee, as is the case with the Senate’s expansion of EdChoice vouchers,” said Ohio Federation of Teachers President Melissa Cropper.

The Senate budget bill expands the income EdChoice vouchers in two ways: by allowing for an increased cap on total vouchers and by expanding the program to cover grades K-12 in 2020. Currently grades K-5 are eligible, with one additional grade level included each year. To pay for their expansion of voucher funding, the Senate’s budget bill would take $50 million away from funding for wellness and wraparound services for high-poverty districts.

“The legislature should not take funding from Ohio’s public schools and divert it to private institutions by inserting an expansion of EdChoice vouchers into the budget,” said Cropper.

Senator Vernon Sykes offered an amendment to remove the language expanding income EdChoice vouchers, but the motion was tabled.

The Senate bill omits language on Academic Distress Commissions that was in the House budget bill. That language was based on HB 154, which went through the normal legislative process and received an overwhelming 83-12 vote as a stand-alone bill.

“We’re disappointed that the Senate chose to ignore what teachers, parents, superintendents, and other stakeholders have been saying: It’s time to end Academic Distress Commissions and return decision-making to locally elected School Boards,” said Cropper. “We’re counting on the full Senate to listen to teachers and parents, and make sure that HB 154’s language is included in the budget.”

Additional policy changes on school report cards and graduation requirements were also inserted into the bill at the last minute without any hearings or previously released information about the proposals.


The Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) is comprised of more than 50 local unions representing 20,000 members who are active and retired public school teachers, charter school teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty and staff, and public employees. OFT works to advance quality education and services that impact children, and a voice in the workplace for Ohio’s education professionals. OFT is affiliated with the 1.7 member American Federation of Teachers.Top of Form