The Big Walnut school board on Nov. 21 unanimously approved a resolution opposing Ohio House Bill 136.

The Big Walnut school board on Nov. 21 unanimously approved a resolution opposing Ohio House Bill 136.

The proposal would expand the school voucher program for children who attend private schools.

District officials said the district could lose some of its state funding if the bill passes.

Board member Allison Fagan said the bill cleared the House's education committee, but representatives have not scheduled a vote.

"It's bad legislation," said Fagan. "It's bad for students and for public schools."

District officials encouraged community members to join them in opposition and notify state Rep. Andrew Brenner, R-Delaware, who is a sponsor of the bill.

Brenner told ThisWeek, "I've listened to the local superintendents, understand their concerns and have made those concerns known to the bill's sponsor and members of the Ohio House. And as a co-sponsor I have taken those concerns into consideration. There is strong consideration by the bill's sponsor for modifying the bill once it goes to the House floor to address the concerns of the local school boards," he said.

Under the current EdChoice voucher system, "Students from schools that have been in Academic Watch or Academic Emergency - the lowest categories on the state's school rating system - for two of the last three school years are eligible to apply," the ODE documents say.

HB 136 would allow a student to obtain a voucher regardless of the school's academic rating. "Any student in any district whose family makes less than $95,000 a year" would qualify, say documents from the Ohio School Board Association (OSBA).

Big Walnut has been rated "excellent" for six consecutive years.

Funds for the vouchers come from state funds the school district would have received. The maximum amount of a voucher is $4,250 for grades kindergarten-8 and $5,000 for grades 9-12, ODE spokesman Patrick Gallaway said.

HB 136 also would allow students currently enrolled in private schools to receive vouchers.

If approved as written, districts would lose $5,700 for each voucher, Damon Asbury, OSBA's director of legislative services, told ThisWeek.

"I can support the notion of getting a child out of a low-performing school," Asbury said. "When there's no other alternative and the parents don't have the means, I think that's fine. However, in districts that are performing well, what would be the rationale for having the public pay for putting somebody in a private school just because that's what the parent wants to do?"

Brenner said, "HB 136 only takes the state allocation of the tax dollars. It is a misnomer (sic) that it is going to take local tax dollars."

The Big Walnut board also:

• Heard the district's development committee has reconvened to review what to do with its facilities, such as the closed buildings Harrison Street Elementary School and the old middle school.
Superintendent Steve Mazzi said they will develop a plan of what to do as student enrollment grows, what to do with older buildings such as Harrison elementary and the administrative offices.

Older buildings can be costly he said.

"At what point do we reopen which building, or look at alternatives?" Mazzi said. "Or at what point do we say maybe one building we can't keep investing money and fixing up?"

• Honored Hannah Ackley, a student at General Rosecrans Elementary, as student of the month. She received the award for her friendliness, love of school, volunteer work for the Humane Society and raising funds to help animals. She would like to be a doctor when she grows up.

• Heard that students are off school Monday, Nov. 28, because of a teacher work day.

• Heard student board representative Connor Moran say the high school band got an excellent rating at the state competition and a canned food drive raised 1,578 cans and $777 on food and made a $300 donation for families in need.

• Announced the high school will perform "Play On" at 7 p.m. Dec. 1-3, at the high school, 70 N. Walnut St., Galena.

• Announced a reception honoring the service of board members Jim Hildreth and Diana Butts, 24 years and eight years respectively, at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 12, at the high school.

• Heard that new state standards will require kindergartners to know how to work a computer mouse and fifth-graders to successfully type two written pages on a keyboard in one setting.