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Education highlights of budget bill

By admin Published: June 30, 2011

What is expected to be the final version of the state’s $56 billion budget, approved by the Senate on Tuesday, contains several provisions for education:

1. All districts will be required to have a teacher evaluation system by the 2013-14 school year based at least 50 percent on student performance. In districts that have accepted federal school reform money (Race to the Top), such as Akron, teachers will be paid based on performance instead of level of education and experience.

2. Private school vouchers would quadruple from 14,000 to 60,000 in two years. Eligibility would be expanded to children who attend schools in the lowest 10 percent of district buildings and charter schools for at least two of the preceding three years. However, in the first year, it would be the lowest 10 percent of only district-operated schools.

3. A new voucher for up to $20,000 would be created that allows parents of special education students to buy services from a private provider beginning in 2012-2013. It would be similar to the Autism Scholarship program, but would apply to any disability. The total number of vouchers could not exceed 5 percent of the number of special education students living in Ohio the previous year. Districts would have to provide transportation.

4. The moratorium on new charter schools would be lifted. No new online charters (e-schools) would be allowed while the state adopts standards for their operation. That moratorium would be lifted after Jan. 1, 2013.

5. The state board must review its 2008 recommendations for charter schools with dropout prevention programs — such as Akron charter school operator David Brennan’s Life Skills Centers — and issue new recommendations by July 1, 2012. The legislature has never acted on the board’s original recommendations, which means dropout charter schools can never be closed for academic poor performance.

6. A provision beneficial to Brennan’s Life Skills Centers directs the Ohio Department of Education to make recommendations for providing an additional two years of instruction to students 22 or older. Current law sets the limit at age 21. The House had proposed allowing adults up to age 29, and the Senate reverted to current law.

7. The conference committee agreed to boost the maximum charter school board member pay from $125 a meeting to $425. The House had proposed eliminating the cap on pay.

8. School districts would be allowed to make up three snow days through lessons posted online and send home “blizzard bags” of paper lesson plans corresponding to lessons posted online. Districts would have to get the consent of the teachers union.

9. School districts and charter schools rated excellent or better will receive a bonus of $17 per student from the state.

- John Higgins

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