COLUMBUS (WCMH) -- Thousands of Ohio high school seniors are wondering whether they are going to graduate this year, or not.
They do not qualify for graduation right now, due to changes to the requirements in recent years.
Last school year, the legislature approved alternative pathways for seniors to graduate, leading some students and their families to assume the governing body would do the same for this school year.
That hasn’t happened, yet.
“We do not have the alternative pathways to graduation in place for the students who are projecting to graduate May 2019, and that’s a crisis,” said State Representative Tavia Galonski, a Democrat with a bill that would reinstate the same alternative pathways from last year. “Without those, we’re going to have approximately and conservatively 37% of Ohio seniors not graduating.”
Galonski says that is roughly 50,000 students according to data she received from the Ohio Department of Education.
Her bill to reinstate the alternative pathways was introduced before the guaranteed hearing date cutoff in May and has not been brought up for a hearing by Republican Chairman of the House Education Committee Andrew Brenner.
“Personally, I think the graduation requirements are sufficient,” said Brenner.
Brenner says the bar for achieving a diploma shouldn’t be lowered but does acknowledge that some alternative pathways do allow for some students to prove they are prepared to go into the workforce and would be acceptable.
He says he is working on a solution to the current problem.
“I believe that we have a compromise proposal that will end up in one of the bills before we leave the general assembly this year,” said Brenner.
That was news to Galonski who says Brenner has made no effort to work with her, or any other Democrat to her knowledge.
Right now, Republicans at the Statehouse need Democrats for very little. They have the numbers to do whatever they want, whenever they want, however they want.
It is possible Brenner has been working with Republicans in the House and Senate on a compromise solution to fit the concerns of the GOP caucus.
As the chairman of the committee, he has the power to call up bills in any order he wishes, as long as they all get 1 hearing before the end of the two-year session, in most cases.
Because there is only a handful of opportunities left to get legislation passed in this General Assembly, it is possible Republicans may try to get their solution attached to a bill that is about to complete its legislative journey and head to the Governor’s desk.
If the Republicans attach the solution as an amendment on the floor of a chamber, which has been done in the past, there is no public hearing on the solution.
This is akin to the Christmas Treeing Senator Schiavoni was talking about last week, where things get hooked onto bills and bypass normal public comment opportunities.
Brenner did not share what his compromise was and it remains a mystery.
Will it contain all of the alternative pathways they approved for the last school year? Will one or two of them be left out? We’ll all find out when they have completed their negotiations and they feel the time is right.
Until then, Ohio families with students that are currently in danger of not graduating will wait; kept in the dark, uncertain of what the future holds for their child.
Should lawmakers fail to get a solution through the legislative process before the end of December, they will have to try to get it done next General Assembly.
That should require educating a brand new group of lawmakers about what they are being asked to vote on, or perhaps told they are voting for.
Because all acts that are signed into law by the Governor carry a 90-day waiting period before they go into effect, unless it carries an emergency clause, any solution that is passed next year could go into effect right before graduation season begins.
Galonski says had Brenner just moved forward with her bill when she introduced it in the spring, lawmakers may have already resolved this issue and families would not have to live with the uncertainty they are faced with right now.