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COLUMBUS — Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder on Wednesday panned a move by the Senate to strip the state budget of an idea that would more closely tie teachers’ wages to how well they and their students do in the classroom.
The House-passed version of the budget features a plan to overhaul teachers’ evaluations and how they get paid. Teachers’ salaries would be based on their performances and evaluations instead of the current increases based on seniority and level of training.
Batchelder told reporters he was disappointed by the removal of those performance-pay provisions.
“My thought is that’s crazy,” the Republican leader said.
It was among several revisions with which Batchelder took issue a day after his fellow GOP senators unveiled their proposed changes to the $55.7 billion, two-year spending blueprint.
Senate President Tom Niehaus has said his chamber wanted to remove the wording to avoid conflict with any union agreements that schools made with teachers as part of federal Race to the Top grants.
The federal program rewards states for taking up ambitious changes to improve struggling schools.
Batchelder said he didn’t see a reason why the school districts that got the federal dollars couldn’t make the additional adjustments to teachers’ evaluations and wages.
“I think if we do both at once, it’s a good thing,” he said. “I think it creates inducements of two types.”
Senate Finance Chairman Chris Widener had said some senators were confused why the merit pay language was in the bill, and it was being further scrutinized.
The topic came up in a Wednesday meeting that Batchelder said he had with Republican Gov. John Kasich and Niehaus, R-New Richmond.
“The governor and I are in agreement and the Senate feels differently, so we’ll just have to discuss it and work it out,” Batchelder said.
The House leader said he thought it would go back into the bill.
Batchelder praised a Senate initiative that could give high-performing school districts $30 million in state money. Those schools that are rated excellent or higher would get $17 per student through a new reward program.
“It’s first-rate,” he said.
Other Senate changes didn’t win Batchelder’s approval.
He said he was “shocked” by a revision to require the state lottery commission to hire a private company to manage its day-to-day operations. Part of his concern, he said, was that the state could get sued over such a deal.
Batchelder also noted the entity would be exempt from state taxes.
“That was interesting,” he said.
Senators also want to roll back charter school revisions the House made, including a proposal that would allow a for-profit entity to sponsor such schools.
Batchelder said there seems to be a feeling in the Senate that if a school is not a nonprofit “it’s not a good thing.”
“Baloney,” he said. “Some of the best schools we have in the state are private schools.”
The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony Wednesday on the revised budget. Members were scheduled to listen to more witnesses on Thursday.
The full Senate plans to vote on the measure next week.
Lawmakers in both chambers would have to work out any differences between the two budget plans in what’s called a conference committee. They face a June 30 deadline to pass the state spending plan.
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