When I went to post a new blog post today, I was shocked to see that I hadn’t posted anything in over seven months! Sure, things have been extremely busy with the biennial budget and the work being done to promote independence for Ohio’s private schools, but it’s still not an excuse. I’ve said it before, and will probably say it again: I’ll try to do better!
The biennial budget contained several provisions good for independent schools in Ohio and two disappointing items (one veto and one mistake). The major provision for OAIS member schools is the total exemption from high school graduation testing for students at schools accredited by ISACS. This is the reinstatement of an exemption earned two years ago that disappeared during a well-intentioned attempt to help more schools during the HB 487 process. Other private schools in the state will have the option of using alternative assessments rather than the AIR assessments being developed. We couldn’t be more pleased that the State of Ohio has recognized ISACS-accredited schools, in statute, as being the best in the state and are treating them accordingly under state law.
Another provision we are pleased with is the increase of money available for students attending school on state-funded scholarships, both EdChoice and Jon Peterson scholarships. The amount of money available for auxiliary services and administrative cost reimbursement has also increased. While OAIS does not advocate for increases in these funding sources and most OAIS schools do not accept scholarships, we do appreciate the state’s investment in the education our schools provide.
With the good came some bad. We were profoundly disappointed with the veto of the clarifying language regarding participation in College Credit plus by nonpublic schools. The Board of Regents clearly ignored statute when it crafted rules that forced private schools to participate in College Credit Plus against their wishes and the budget language clarified the legislature’s intent. Unfortunately, Gov. Kasich vetoed this clarifying language. It is our hope that the Board of Regents will attempt to work with nonpublic school associations rather than obstruct any meaningful compromise so that schools and students are both comfortable with how the College Credit Plus process works.
On behalf of the ISACS-accredited schools accepting Jon Peterson and EdChoice scholarships, we are also disappointed with Senate-added language that forces students at ISACS-accredited schools to take the AIR assessments while every other scholarship student in the state will attend a school where alternative assessments are provided. This language, added at the very last minute without any vetting by major stakeholders (except one), was apparently an avoidable error that we hope will be corrected soon.
There is still more work to do, but OAIS remains thankful that Ohio’s legislators continue to work to free OAIS member schools from the burdensome mandates that stifle educational innovation and excellence.