State lawmakers on Wednesday unanimously passed sweeping legislation to address a number of pressing issues caused by the coronavirus crisis, including extending mail-in primary voting until April 28, allowing high-school seniors to graduate, freezing school-voucher eligibility, and banning water utilities from disconnecting service.
Waive K-12 testing and allow graduation: The bill waives testing requirements and report cards for this school year, and it allows high-school seniors to graduate if their school determines they were on track to do so before classes were interrupted
Freeze school-voucher eligibility: If lawmakers don’t act by March 31, the number of Ohio public schools where EdChoice private-school vouchers are available will balloon from about 500 to around 1,200, as more schools – including many in affluent areas – have been designated as “underperforming.” As state funding is limited, individual districts would have to pay a large chunk of the expanded vouchers. The Senate’s bill would keep the voucher eligibility at existing levels.
Allow for school meal programs this summer: HB 197 temporarily exempts schools and other entities from state food-processing requirements so they can continue serving meals to students.
Prohibit water service disconnections: The legislation authorizes the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to prohibit public water systems from shutting off service to customers for non-payment. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio already arranged for most utilities to pledge not to disconnect service during the coronavirus crisis, but the PUCO doesn’t regulate public water systems.
Expand unemployment insurance: The bill codifies an executive order by Governor DeWine to temporarily waive the typical waiting period required to qualify for unemployment benefits, and erase (for now) the requirement that people who get jobless benefits must seek work.