Children who fail to meet expectations on the third grade reading test no longer have to repeat third grade.
After disagreement between the Ohio House and Senate, the budget bill walked away with language to eliminate required retention under the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. It also makes changes to the nature of the state education department.
Although the House - which has been strongly in favor of eliminating the requirement - put the bill in their budget, this provision was removed in the upper chamber where senators in high positions remain committed to retention. The compromise language allows a parent, in consultation with the teacher and principal, to permit their child to advance to fourth grade. It also calls for intervention services that align with the science of reading with high dosage tutoring for students who continue to test below grade level until the child achieves a proficient score on the reading test. It also includes safe harbor language for those students who were in third grade for the school year that just ended.
Meanwhile, the Department of Education is officially no more. Enactment of the biennial state budget has replaced it with the Department of Education and Workforce, effectively negating most powers of the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction it appoints. We will all be waiting to hear who will become the newly minted agency's director, a role now named by the governor.
The change is a result of the Senate's decision to add SB 1 to the budget bill. Although the House had been slow to give its support to that bill, it ultimately acquiesced when it became part of the larger spending package in exchange for maintaining its more generous version of the school funding formula.
What the change in name, leadership and focus will actually mean for the state's education agency has yet to be seen. OSPA remains well connected to leaders in the Office for Exceptional Children and Office of Licensure and expects relationships to continue.
The last couple months have been marked by a flurry of legislative activity. If the heavy schedule of the state budget process were not enough, the House and Senate also devoted much time to long hearings on bills impacting the LGBTQ+ community and higher education.
OSPA Executive Director Rachel Chilton was able to testify multiple times in the House and Senate on the state budget, specifically asking lawmakers to increase funding to our school psychology intern program. This money in the Department of Education budget provides the salary interns receive and is a long standing line item for which OSPA has advocated over the decades. The salary is meant to be based on the state teacher minimum salary schedule, but because of a legislative mistake six years ago, the teacher salary went up but the funding in our line stayed the same. This underfunding is what we sought to correct all along the way — ODE, governor's office, House and Senate — of the budget, but unfortunately did not prevail. The legislature even found compromise in a raise to the teacher minimum salary to $35,000, meaning our line item is now farther away from its intended level.
Controversial copycat legislation inspired by a Florida bill also saw addition to the state budget while in the Senate but was ultimately scrapped. SB 83, which bans employee strikes and restricts mandated diversity training at public colleges and universities, was added to the budget on the Senate floor, but during conference committee negotiations with the House, it was removed. OSPA and school psychologists testified against the measure months earlier because of a provision that would have forbidden university programs from requiring diversity training. Such a measure would have cost Ohio programs their NASP accreditation as such training is a requirement. Thankfully, an amendment early in the process modified that provision to make exceptions for programs that require diversity training as part of accreditation, licensure or federal law. It does, however, require programs to fill out paperwork seeking such an exception. The bill continued to be fought against by a variety of higher education stakeholders, including students. Nevertheless, the legislative majority has supported it as a means to ensure "intellectual diversity" on college campuses, where they say conservative views are being stymied. SB 83 will now continue hearings in the House, where it has seen support from majority members.
House updates to the biennial spending measure filtered more money into the school funding formula. The governor’s original proposal continued a gradual phase in of the formula but had based the formula on data from fiscal year 2018. The House opted to change the formula assumptions to more recent FY 2022 data. The Senate made additional tweaks to the formula that it argued improved the original Cupp-Patterson Funding plan, but during conference committee relinquished its stance in favor of the House version, which advocates have said puts more money in schools.
Additionally, both chambers increased voucher eligibility. The governor had proposed an increase to 400% of the federal poverty level, the House increased it to 450%, and the Senate made vouchers universally available but with means testing for families earning above 450% FPL.
The conference committee agreed to include a House bill to require school athletic coaches to undergo student mental health training.