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Public Policy News – March 2017

2017 March 11

By Karen Rainey, AAUW Ohio Public Policy Chair, kgraauw@yahoo.com

New Voucher Proposal

Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) is introducing a proposal to consolidate three school voucher programs and create the Ohio Opportunity Scholarship, with higher scholarship amounts based on a sliding income scale. The three programs targeted for consolidation are the Cleveland, the traditional EdChoice and the EdChoice expansion. (The Autism Scholarship and the Jon Peterson Special needs Scholarship programs would not be included.) The intent is to expand school choice to serve middle-class students.

All vouchers would be funded at the state level rather than deducted from a school’s state aid. Other differences in the new plan from existing programs are that geography (program boundaries) and “failing” schools would no longer be the deciding factors; the program would also be open to all grades. Parents earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level would be eligible for vouchers, based on a sliding scale. Base scholarship amounts would be set at $5,000 for elementary and middle school students and $7,500 for high school students. There is no cap in the proposal on the number of scholarships.

AAUW has long opposed the use of public funds for nonpublic elementary and secondary education.  There is an additional concern with this proposed expansion that the program would aid families who can already afford a private school. The proposal is not yet in bill form; at some point, it could also be wrapped into the state budget. We’ll be watching.

Working with Indivisible Groups 

Indivisible groups have been formed in many of the communities where our branches are located. Their goals and methods frequently correspond with AAUW’s goals and approach to advocacy. Branches wishing to work with Indivisible groups may do so, provided that the focus remains non-partisan and does not violate AAUW’s rules around collaboration (Policy 600). Branches are free to advocate for those positions included in AAUW’s Public Policy Program and any questions about specific federal legislation can be directed to advocacy@aauw.org. 

Sexual Assault on Campus

Did you know that Ohio spent $2 million in the past two years to develop model best practices for preventing and responding to campus sexual assault? That amount was allocated to the Department of Higher Education in the last biennial budget; the result is the publication of “Changing Campus Culture: Preventing & Responding to Campus Sexual violence.” In its first year, 79 out of Ohio’s 88 public and private campuses reported making significant progress implementing its recommendations.   You can find the report here: www.ohiohighered.org/ccc/report.

More than 100 sexual assaults were reported on Ohio’s public campuses in 2013; the actual number is probably higher in that assaults tend to be underreported. A key recommendation is to empower staff, faculty, campus law enforcement and students to prevent and respond to sexual violence through training. As an example, bystander training encourages people to intervene if they think they witnessed an incident. Components are raising awareness, building a sense of responsibility, speaking up, and building skills and confidence.

If your branch has a college campus nearby, you can monitor the implementation of the recommendations, which were to go into effect last fall. Also know that AAUW has updated its Quick Facts on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence in School and has other materials as well—including “10 Ways to Fight against Sexual Assault on Campus” and “Here’s Your Talking-Points Memo on Campus Sexual Assault.”   Title IX federal enforcement is now in doubt under Education Secretary DeVos, which compels us to be even more vigilant.

Legislative Update

House Bill 1, the bill to allow for civil protection orders to be obtained by victims of domestic violence in dating relationships, has passed the House by a vote of 92-2. There’s no word yet on Senate action.

Senate Bill 4, to expunge the records of victims of human trafficking who committed crimes as a result of being trafficked, has had two hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee but has no momentum at this time. The committee chair is Kevin Bacon; call him at 614-466-8064 to express your support.

House Bill 86 has just been introduced; it would increase the state minimum wage to $10.10 beginning January 1, 2019. Sponsored by Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid), it has been referred to the Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee. Although worthy of support, it likely won’t go far in this polarized legislature.

House Bill 49, the state operating budget, includes the governor’s proposal that teachers be required to do externships with businesses in order to renew their licenses, beginning in 2018. The governor’s intent is to inform teachers on what is needed to succeed in the world of work, but there is considerable pushback from teachers who cite the proposal as unnecessary and even demeaning to the education profession. This may not survive the budget process.

Convention Session: An Inside View of the State School Board

The Public Policy breakout session at the state convention on May 6 will feature two new members of the State Board of Education, both elected last fall and endorsed by AAUW. Dr. Antoinette Miranda and Meryl Johnson will give their perspective on the workings of the state board and on the proposed state budget for education. Plan to attend and bring your questions.

New State Public Policy Brochure Available 

AAUW Ohio’s public policy program brochure has been reprinted and is available if you should want copies for distribution. Just send me an email (kgraauw@yahoo.com) with an address and the quantity needed.

Useful Resources

Here’s a reminder that the Women’s Public Policy Network has published “What’s at Stake for Women if the ACA is Repealed.” You can find it at www.womenspublicpolicynetwork.org. It’s a great resource when you’re discussing what needs to be preserved if the ACA disappears.

Innovation Ohio’s feature On the Budget now has available a comparison of school funding in the years 2010 and 2018 by school district. You can find it at www.innovationohio.org/comparing-school-funding-2010-2018/.

Policy Matters Ohio’s feature Budget Bites just posted an item on affordable college and Ohio’s underinvestment in higher education. You can find it at www.policymattersohio.org.

As always, your questions and comments are welcomed.

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