April 2020 Newsletter

What do School Closings Mean for Students and School Districts?
On March 30, 2020, Dr. Acton extended the previous K-12 school closure order through to May 1, 2020. Schools are still open to teachers and other staff, though they are encouraged to work from home if that is an available option.

The likelihood of K-12 schools closing for the rest of the year is incredibly high, with students, parents, and school administrators all attempting to adjust to a new normal that includes take-home packets and distance learning. The Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 197 to deal with some of the issues brought about due to the COVID-19 pandemic. HB197 has several significant provisions that directly address education, including the following:

  • Limits the number of Ed Choice designated school buildings for the 2020-21 school year to those buildings previously eligible in the 2019-20 school year; allows siblings of current scholarship recipients, incoming Kindergarten students, and rising high school students to receive a performance-based scholarship for the 2020-21 school year if the building they attend or would attend meets these criteria.
  • Allows for public schools, community schools, private schools, and stem schools to make up lost days or hours using distance learning. School boards, governing bodies, or governing authorities that have adopted previous plans to address school closures and distance learning may amend those plans to be COVID-19 specific. School boards, governing bodies, and governing authorities that have not adopted a plan for distance learning may do so at any time.
  • Allows licensed professionals who were offering special education services to students via their school district, the John Peterson Scholarship Special Needs Scholarship, or the Autism Scholarship Program to continue to receive those services via telehealth or other electronic means.
  • Exempts schools from having to administer end of year assessments.
  • Prevents the Ohio Department of Education from publishing state report card ratings for the 2019-2020 school year and prevents ODE from assigning a grade letter to individual school buildings or grading specific measures for the 2019-2020 school year. The bill notes that the lack of report card data for 2019-2020 does not give schools a new starting point nor exempt them from sanctions and penalties based on previous years report card ratings.
  • Prevents third-grade students from being held back solely based on their academic performance in reading unless both the principal and the instructor in reading agree the student’s reading level is below grade level and the student is unprepared for fourth grade.
  • Allows for students who were either seniors in high school or on track to graduate from high school but have yet to complete the requirements for a high school diploma, to be granted a high school diploma.

The Ohio Poverty Law Center is working with the legal aid statewide education taskforce to identify gaps created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

CARES Act Stimulus Payments
The CARES Act provides for Americans to receive payments from the government to help with the difficulties created by COVID-19. Most adults with a Social Security number will receive rebates in the amount of $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for joint filers, plus $500 for each child.

The amounts begin phasing out at incomes of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for joint filers. Individuals with incomes greater than $99,000 and couples with income greater than $198,000 will not receive a payment.

If you filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return or receive social security benefits, you will not need to do anything to receive the stimulus payment. For the most up-to-date information, see the IRS website.

 Primary Election
The legislature extended the deadline for absentee voting in Ohio’s primary election until April 28, 2020.

If you have not already voted, you must request an absentee ballot. it will not be automatically sent to you. You can access the absentee ballot request form online and mail it to your county Board of Elections. You may receive an absentee ballot request form in the mail too.
You will receive your ballot in the mail following your request. You will need to return it to your county board of elections. Your absentee ballot must be postmarked by Monday, April 27, 2020, or you can drop off your ballot by Tuesday, April 28, 7:30 pm.

If you have a disability or are homeless, you may vote in-person on April 28, 2020, at your county Board of Elections between 6:30 am-7:30 pm.