December 22, 2014

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Proposed Ohio budget offers Common Core reprieve

Gov. John Kasich offered a mid-term budget proposal on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

Gov. John Kasich offered a mid-term budget proposal on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

COLUMBUS — As he heads into a fall re-election bid, Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday backed tax cuts and a one-year reprieve from school district and teacher penalties related to the state’s new education and teacher evaluation standards.

Those and a host of other proposals were woven into four mid-term budget bills headed toward likely floor votes today in the GOP-led Ohio Senate. All four bills have already cleared the Ohio House, but state representatives would have another chance to review Senate changes.

Kasich’s tax proposal includes accelerating a planned 10 percent income-tax reduction by six months by reducing withholding rates on the final 1 percent in July rather than January.

His plan also would boost small business income-tax reductions to 75 percent from 50 percent for tax year 2014 and would double the earned income tax credit available to low-income Ohioans from 5 percent to 10 percent of the federal credit. Another change would raise personal income-tax exemptions for taxpayers making less than $80,000 a year.

The administration said stronger-than-expected state revenue would allow for the cuts, estimated at $402 million.

Ohio Association of Foodbanks executive director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt urged lawmakers to support the tax credit expansion.

“Millions of our friends and neighbors continue to live in poverty, in spite of working hard every day, due to low wages and rising costs of living,” she said, adding that the tax would help “make work pay.”

Under amendments in a mid-term budget bill on education, which cleared the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, Ohio school districts and teachers would get a one-year reprieve from funding penalties or job sanctions tied to new state learning and teacher-evaluation standards.

Teachers across the state have been under review starting this school year, and are required to meet certain performance targets.

A teacher union leader and other school officials expressed relief about the changes.

“We’re pleased that state lawmakers are listening to the concerns of parents and educators that too many school districts in Ohio are not ready to implement the new Common Core standards and related assessments,” Ohio Education Association president Becky Higgins said in a statement. “While this is a step in the right direction, we believe more time will be needed than just one year to get it right.”

Damon Asbury, legislative services director for the Ohio School Boards Association, said in an email that the group agrees districts and teachers should not be unduly penalized as they go through the transition period to new standards.

Additional education revisions adopted by the Senate panel stipulate local control over the curriculum, textbooks and course materials used in Ohio classrooms as Ohio phases in multi-state Common Core learning standards.

Also under the bill, seven-member academic standards review committees would be established in English, social studies, science and math.

The committees would review tests given in schools and would recommend any changes. Each committee would include three content experts, a teacher, a parent, and designees of the state chancellor and superintendent. Members would be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. Tests and answers would become a public record.

Asbury said the proposed expanded public review should help gain more support for the new standards and assessments.

Senators voted to prohibit collection or dissemination to the federal government of certain personal data about students, including their political or religious affiliations. Aggregate test data would still be provided to the U.S. Department of Education, as it is now.

The bill also would require the state school board to develop Ohio’s standards for science, American history and American government.