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Chambers exchange bills on kindergarten, snow days

By Marc Kovac

Thursday, March 10, 2011

By Marc Kovac


The Ohio House and Senate signed off on separate bills Wednesday that would eliminate a state mandate on all-day kindergarten and expand the number of school snow days.

Both were part of an education reform package pushed last session by former Gov. Ted Strickland.

The Ohio Senate, on a vote of 23-10, passed Senate Bill 9, which would eliminate the requirement that schools offer all-day kindergarten, leaving the decision up to districts’ discretion.

The Ohio House, on a vote of 92-5, passed House Bill 36, which would increase the number of school calamity days from three to five.

Both bills now head to the opposite chambers for further deliberations.

Senate Bill 9 would allow, but not require, school districts to offer all-day kindergarten classes and would enable them to charge tuition for those who want to participate.

Proponents of the bill say the state should not be forcing districts to offer all-day kindergarten without providing funding to cover the costs, on a sliding scale, as is the case under current law.

But Democrats in the chamber opposed the change.

Sen. Tom Sawyer, a Democrat from Akron, said, “Providing an equal and more comprehensive education at this level is crucial for all children’s timely development.”

There was more bipartisan support for House Bill 36 following deliberations in the Ohio House.

Under Strickland, the number of days schools are allowed to close due to adverse weather without making them up at the end of the year was reduced this year to three from five.

The change was put into effect for the 2010-11 school year only; absent lawmaker action, districts would return to five calamity days in 2011-12.

But winter weather already has prompted many schools to close for more than the three days allowed.

House Bill 36 and comparable legislation being considered in the Ohio Senate would increase the number of snow days to five and would allow schools to make up calamity days by adding time to already-scheduled class days.