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Published: Tuesday, 5/20/2014

Kasich backs tax cut package, school penalty delay as bills move through Ohio Senate


COLUMBUS -- As he heads into a fall re-election bid, Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday backed a package of new tax cuts and a one-year reprieve from school district and teacher penalties related to the state’s new education and teacher evaluation standards.

Those and a host of other proposals were woven into four midterm budget bills moving through the GOP-led Ohio Senate. All four bills have already cleared the Ohio House, but state representatives would have another chance to review the changes.

Kasich’s tax proposal includes accelerating a planned 10 percent income-tax reduction by six months by reducing withholding rates on the final 1 percent in July rather than January.

His plan would also boost small business income-tax reductions to 75 percent from 50 percent for tax year 2014 and would double the earned income tax credit available to low-income Ohioans from 5 percent to 10 percent of the federal credit. Another change would raise personal income-tax exemptions for low- and middle-income taxpayers making under $80,000 a year.

The administration said stronger state revenue than expected would allow for the cuts, estimated at $402 million.

Under amendments incorporated into a midterm budget bill on education, which cleared the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday, Ohio school districts and teachers would get a one-year reprieve from funding penalties or job sanctions tied to new state learning and teacher-evaluation standards.

Districts and teachers would get a pass on any performance deficiencies or test score declines identified as new standards are phased in. No job sanctions related to those evaluations would be imposed during the 2015-16 school year. It also says funding allotments would remain at current levels, without regard to report card changes that occur while Ohio phases in new student assessments and graduation tests.

Teachers across the state have been under review and observation starting this school year, and are required to meet certain performance targets under the law to keep certain assignments and avoid penalties.

Teachers unions didn’t immediately comment Tuesday on the revised bill.

Rep. Kristina Roegner, a Hudson Republican, said standards are important — but so is protecting students’ personal privacy. She said guarding privacy should reside “with our local schools, parents and teachers, who are on the front lines of our statewide effort to encourage student achievement.”

Additional education revisions adopted by the Senate panel stipulate to local control over the curriculum, textbooks and course materials used in Ohio classrooms as Ohio phases in multi-state Common Core learning standards.

Also, under the bill, seven-member academic standards review committees would be established in English, social studies, science and math. The committees would review tests given in schools and would recommend any changes. Each committee would include three content experts, a teacher, a parent, and designees of the state chancellor and superintendent. Members would be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders. Tests and answers would become a public record.

Senators voted to prohibit collection or dissemination to the federal government of certain personal data about students, including their political or religious affiliations. Aggregate test data would still be provided to the U.S. Department of Education, as it is now.

The bill also would require the state school board to develop Ohio’s standards for science, American history and American government.

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