Ohio GOP lawmakers at odds over calamity days
By Marc Kovac
Republicans in the Ohio House and Senate remain at odds over the number of excused snow days schools should be allowed during the current school year, leaving the legislation in limbo for a couple of more weeks.
The Ohio Senate moved an amended bill Wednesday allowing four additional snow days but only after schools have used makeup days outlined in required contingency plans.
The substitute legislation was a departure from the plan OK’d by the House last week, which called for two additional calamity days and two additional professional-development days for teachers — in effect, giving students four excused days.
The updated version of HB 416 instead requires schools to use the initial five calamity days already in state law, then complete four additional contingency days before receiving additional excused days off.
On the latter, the legislation allows three extra calamity days and one teacher professional-development day, meaning students would have four additional excused days.
The bill also would excuse seniors from attending makeup days scheduled after graduation ceremonies.
HB 416 passed in the Senate on a vote of 32-0, but the House rejected the amended legislation, setting the stage for a conference committee of the two chambers to work out the differences.
Reps. Tony Burkley, R-Payne, and Brian Hill, R-Zanesville, offered sponsor testimony on the bill, noting that schools across the state have used an average of nine calamity days already.
“In Muskingum County, several school districts have already called off 13 days, and in Guernsey County, that total reaches 17 calamity days,” Hill told members of the Senate’s education committee.
A vote in the House was delayed a week after some Republicans balked at allowing more excused days off, saying the state was providing hundreds of millions of dollars to pay teachers on snow days when students received no classroom instruction.
Republicans in the Senate ultimately disagreed with the House’s approach to addressing the issue and adopted its own legislation that would require schools to meet contingency days they outlined before the school year started for handling calamity days.
Those contingency days could mean scheduling makeup days on holidays or Saturdays, sending “blizzard bags” home with students so they can complete lessons outside of school or adding time onto planned school days.
Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said the Senate version of the bill balances safety with ensuring students are receiving a quality education.