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Could Ohio Finally Pass New High School Graduation Requirements?

Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau

The Ohio Senate passed a budget last week that includes a set of high school graduation requirements, which could settle an issue that the state has been struggling with for years.

Under the proposed standards, students could pick from options including 20 credits of coursework, good final scores on basic English and math tests, and college or career prep.

That means at least two seals or endorsements from the state and local districts, in areas such as community service, workforce readiness, bilingual proficiency and military enlistment. Other potential state seals are for citizenship, science, and technology, requiring certain test scores or advanced coursework. Local seals include fine and performing arts and student engagement.

Senate Education Chair Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) said it’s a good plan.

“One size doesn’t fit all and we should have a variety of different ways for a student to indicate that they’re ready to move on to the next phase of their lives," Lehner said.

The proposal in the budget comes from a coalition of business groups, school districts and a charter schools organization.

The state delayed graduation requirements in both 2017and 2018because of concerns that as many as a third of students might not be on track to meet them.

Lehner said because of all the time spent discussing the issue, and because this plan has widespread school and business support, she’s feels it has a good chance of staying in the final version of the budget.

However, there was nothing on graduation standards in the House version, so the issue will have to be worked out in this week’s conference committee. On Monday, three key school groups wrote to the members of the committee, saying they oppose the addition of the graduation requirements in the budget.

The letter from the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, the Ohio School Boards Association and the Buckeye Association of School Administrators also opposes the Ohio Senate budget’s movement of $125 million in funding for wraparound services into vouchers. It also supports the elimination of academic distress commissions and additional funding to fast-growing school districts.