Friday, August 8, 2003

Senate holds summer session to pass Ohio education bill

House still to vote on bringing state in line with act

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - While the federal government gave Ohio good grades for its early try at a state version of a federal education bill, it refused to budge when lawmakers asked for more time to pass the final bill.

As a result, the Ohio Senate held a rare summer session Thursday to approve the bill bringing Ohio regulations in line with the federal 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. The Senate approved it 29-3.

Passing the bill preserves $400 million in U.S. Department of Education aid. Lawmakers weren't to return to Columbus until mid-September. The House has scheduled a similar vote for Tuesday.

For Cincinnati, the passage of the bill next week will secure about $23 million in federal aid.

"I have confidence they will pass it," said Terry Joyner, chief academic officer of Cincinnati Public Schools. "There are too many dollars tied into that bill."

And that's a good thing, she said, because much of federal money is being allocated for staff and many of those people have already been hired.

Senate Republicans defended their work on the bill earlier this year. Senator Randy Gardner, a Bowling Green Republican, said the federal government changed its stance and allowed two testing dates for the new achievement test, rather than a single exam date each year.

"Because the Senate worked harder and longer and waited, we have a better education policy on our desk today," he said.

The federal law, a cornerstone of President Bush's 2000 campaign, requires states to adopt plans to increase school testing and improve teaching.

The federal government wanted the Ohio bill passed by the start of the next school year to comply with the federal law and warned that the state could lose its federal funding without the change. But the Legislature failed to approve the bill last month before recessing for the summer.

The bill stalled when many lawmakers disagreed with an unrelated proposal tucked into the bill to count schoolchildren twice a year, in October and March, for funding purposes.

Last month, a joint legislative committee approved a version of the bill that restores the current single enrollment count.

In January, President Bush gave early approval to Ohio's plan, along with those in Massachusetts, New York, Indiana and Colorado.

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