Week in Review - 02/02/2018

Week in Review - 02/02/2018

CHILDREN/FAMILIES

Drawing on a Wall Street Journal op-ed by White House senior advisor Ivanka Trump as an appeal for Republican support, Reps. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) announced forthcoming legislation on paid family leave in a Wednesday press conference. A similar bill will be introduced in the Senate by Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus). The program would provide 12 weeks of paid family leave for eligible recipients who need to care for a newborn, child, parent, spouse or themselves due to a serious medical condition, Boggs explained.


EDUCATION

Ohio drew roughly the same assessment it did last year from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools' annual ranking of states' charter school statutes. The state ranked 23rd out of 45 states that allow charter schools, versus 21st out of 44 in the 2017 ratings. Kentucky joined the ranks of states with charter school laws last year.


Legislative, K-12, higher education, and business leaders convened Wednesday to highlight Ohio's lagging educational attainment and discuss ways to get more degrees and credentials into the hands of Ohioans. At a luncheon, a press conference, and a Senate committee hearing, participants discussed strategies for meeting Ohio's educational attainment goal of having 65 percent of Ohioans hold some post-secondary credential by 2025. Ohio now stands around 43 percent, rating it 33rd in attainment among the states.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wrote to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) this week to ask what steps it's taking to help former Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) students move to new schools and how it's pursuing recovery of tens of millions of dollars from the online charter school.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

In a short afternoon session Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed legislation that would update the State Highway Patrol Retirement System. Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) told the chamber that the bipartisan HB362 (Carfagna-Ramos) is needed because of a 2016 actuarial change to several key assumptions, which decreased the amortization period.


The House Wednesday passed eight bills, including HB281 (Carfagna) establishing a residential broadband expansion program within the Development Services Agency.


In other action, the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee reported out HB58 (Brenner-Slaby) which deals with the teaching of handwriting by requiring the State Board of Education to adopt standards. However, school districts would not be required to implement those standards.


HIGHER EDUCATION

Federal lawmakers substantially expanded the scope of college savings accounts in last year's tax overhaul, letting Americans spend up to $10,000 per year for K-12 expenses as well. The Ohio Tuition Trust Authority (OTTA), the state agency overseeing the Ohio-sponsored 529 accounts, welcomes the chance to bring more people into the fold, but says post-high school learning will remain the focus of its efforts. Meanwhile, a private school group says there's uncertainty about how this new federal change interacts with state law governing college savings.


PENSIONS

A union for school employees this week sued the state and the School Employees Retirement System (SERS) over a freeze in cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) to allege that the funding difficulties that drove it arose from poor investment decisions and "extravagant" payments to actuaries and investment professionals, among other claims. SERS' attorneys are reviewing the case, "but we believe that all actions taken by SERS were legal and prudent with regard to the COLA changes," system spokesman Tim Barbour wrote in an email.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

Congressional redistricting discussions between lawmakers and members of the Fair Districts=Fair Elections Coalition continued throughout most of the week including late into Wednesday evening, but an agreement remained elusive. On Tuesday, Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) did present a substitute version of SJR5 (Huffman) during the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee meeting but no action was taken on it this week. With negotiations thought to continue over the weekend, legislators appear to be pushing final action up to the Feb. 7 deadline for their putting an issue on the May ballot.