The General Assembly approved the state's $1.3 billion biennial capital appropriations and budget-correction bill (H.B. 562) last week and it is now awaiting Gov. Ted Strickland's signature. Like every appropriations bill, H.B. 562 is stuffed with lots of extras, in addition to the cash, including these education-related items:
- Charter schools will not have to make up days missed for inclement weather so long as the schools provided at least the minimum-required 920 hours of instruction this year. This fixes a problem for some charters dependent on public-school busing that The Gadfly first reported in March (see here). District schools that were closed due to flooding and which meet a host of other requirements also won't have to make up those days.
- School districts that jointly or cooperatively operate a school or education program-like the Metro High School in Columbus-may charge fees or tuition to participating students.
- Nonpublic schools, including parochial schools and most other private schools, can make purchases through low-cost contracts negotiated by the Department of Administrative Services. District and charter schools, political subdivisions, and other public entities have long had this privilege.
- Private-school students will be allowed to participate in the new Seniors-to-Sophomores program.
- A district may run a STEM school; however, the district must treat the STEM school as a separate operating unit for accounting purposes and the auditor must certify that dollars intended for the STEM school are spent on the STEM school.
- The Distance Learning Clearinghouse will move from eTech to the Board of Regents and expand to include college courses. The Regents chancellor will have authority over the clearinghouse and the selection of its operator.
The bill also tweaked Ohio's charter school law:
- The moratorium on start-up charter schools has been loosened to allow the opening of new schools that are sponsored by a Big Eight district and meet certain qualifiers.
- Education service centers may now sponsor conversion charter schools.
- High-performing, start-up charter schools operated by nonprofits may, under certain conditions, operate multiple facilities under one contract.
- The governing authorities of multiple charter schools can enter into pooling agreements for health care and liability insurance, transportation, and to purchase goods and services. This will allow an organization, such as the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, to negotiate a group agreement for all of its members. Or, charters in a city could band together to buy buses or provide transportation.