After the Ohio House removed language from the original version of the Ohio budget bill (HB64), Senate Bill 148 was created, proposing many of the long-overdue reforms to the charter school system that the House dropped. SB148 received strong support from a diverse group of backers, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board, StudentsFirst Ohio, The Fordham Institute, and the Ohio Education Association. Even Darlene Chambers, president of the Ohio Alliance for Public Charter Schools, expressed support for most of the components of the bill in a May 7 Columbus Dispatch article:
“It is very important that a strong charter-reform package be passed and signed prior to the General Assembly recessing for the summer,” Chambers said.
Matt Dotson from the Ohio Education Association provided testimony on the bill, saying “OEA has welcomed the introduction of charter school reform proposals contained in SB 148 and HB 2, as well as the reform provisions originally contained in the Governor’s executive budget proposal (HB 64). Taken together, these proposals would make important progress on many, but not all, of the legislative fixes needed to achieve meaningful change that can restore the original purpose of charter schools. Although there is some overlap in proposals, OEA’s assessment is that SB 148 is the most comprehensive charter school reform bill currently under consideration by the committee.”
The Senate Finance Committee failed to restore any of Kasich’s original language to HB64, so the bill went to the Conference Committee without any meaningful charter school reform language. During the Conference Committee, Senator Skindell (D) offered an amendment to insert all of the Senate Bill 148 language into HB64. With such broad support among groups with differing political views on charter schools, it seemed like an easy move.
Senator Coley (R) moved to table the amendment (put it aside without a vote on it). Coley’s motion passed 4-2, with the 4 Republicans (Oelslager, Coley, R. Smith, Schuring) voting to table it and the 2 Democrats (Skindell, Driehaus) voting against the motion.
And just like that, in a matter of seconds, the Republican majority in the Ohio General Assembly killed another chance for a “strong charter-reform package”.
House Bill 2, up for consideration in the Senate today, may represent the last chance for charter reform this legislative session.