Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) is scheduled to meet this week with House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) in hopes of reaching a resolution on school vouchers.
For weeks, the future of the EdChoice voucher program has been the topic of hot debate. DeWine wants to strike a compromise with the leaders following nearly two weeks of conference committee hearings with hundreds of people offering testimony.
The EdChoice Scholarship Program grants student vouchers based on a school's academic performance. The list of schools, deemed to be failing by the state report card, is about to more than double from 517 to 1,227.
When it comes to changing the system, the Senate and House are locked in a stalemate. DeWine says children have to be the main focus.
"This has to do with a lot of different things but the most important thing it has to do with is the children. So we have to make sure that we come up with something that ensures the child gets a good education in the state of Ohio," DeWine says.
The House wants to move to a voucher system based only on a student's family income. That proposed plan would raise the eligible income threshold to 250% of the federal poverty level.
The Senate wants to keep EdChoice and change the methodology of determining what qualifies a school as failing. That change would bring the school eligibility list down to about 400. The Senate plan would increase the income eligibility rate to 300% of the federal poverty level.
There are school choice advocates who oppose any change to the current EdChoice system. They argue that parents have known about the new list of eligible schools since November and have already been making plans for the 2020-2021 school year.
The application window for EdChoice vouchers was originally set to open on February 1, but the Ohio General Assembly delayed that process until April 1.