COLUMBUS - Facing the loss of $403 million in federal funds, the Ohio House yesterday briefly interrupted its summer recess to adopt President Bush's No Child Left Behind education reforms.
The chamber voted 87-8 to send the bill to Gov. Bob Taft, who is expected to sign it, guaranteeing that $403 million in federal dollars earmarked for poorer districts like Toledo Public Schools will keep flowing.
“The federal gun is pointed to our head,” Rep. Ed Jerse (D., Euclid) said.
“That federal program is one of the most massive interventions into what is fundamentally a local matter that I can think of.
“We're mandating tests from Washington, D.C., that are going to interfere with the work of school teachers throughout Ohio.”
The federal law requires states to administer eight tests beyond what is required under Ohio law.
The new tests include annual examinations in reading and mathematics from grades 3 through 8, starting in 2006, and science three times between grades 3 and 12, starting in 2008.
The scores must be broken down by race, ethnicity, income, disability, and English proficiency.
The bill prohibits the exemption of special education students from the tests, a move expected to hit the proficiency scores of urban districts the hardest.
“This will make sure every student will have the same standards, same challenges to meet, and that we have some point of gathering data each year so we know that a child is beginning to slide behind, so we can catch them before they slip through the cracks,” Rep. Jamie Callender (R., Willowick) said.
“There may or may not be a federal gun to our head, but the bottom line is this is the right thing to do for our children,” Representative Callender said.
The General Assembly left town in late June without reconciling differing versions of the bill passed by its two chambers.
The chief dispute was over how often schools should count enrollment for state funding purposes.
The issue was dropped from the compromise version that finally reached the two chambers.