COLUMBUS -- The Ohio House OK'd legislation to increase the number of snow days for the state's schoolchildren but added language cutting the number of excused days for teachers.
HB 416 passed on a vote of 80-16 and heads to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
The legislation initially proposed allowing up to four additional calamity days during the current school year, enabling districts to avoid scheduling makeup days over spring breaks, on holidays or weekends, at the end of the school year.
The latter options are being considered by many schools that have had to close for more than the five calamity days allowed under current state law, thanks to recent wintry weather.
"This year, winter in Ohio has been characterized by higher-than-average snowfall totals, as well as bone-chilling, record-setting temperatures across the U.S.," said Rep. Tony Burkley, R-Payne), a primary sponsor of the bill. "... The severity of the weather has caused many school districts to consume all of their calamity days long before today. ... Many in my district have used in excess of 10 (calamity days)."
Rep. Brian Hill, R-Zanesville, co-sponsor of the legislation, said some schools in Guernsey County have already canceled classes on 17 days.
The House Education Committee signed off on HB 416 late last month, but some Republican lawmakers voiced opposition, delaying a final vote for a week as members worked behind the scenes on a compromise.
The bill was amended during Wednesday's House session to allow two extra calamity days during the current school year, plus two additional teacher professional development days, essentially meaning students could be excused up to four additional days.
Some lawmakers still opposed the legislation.
Rep. Mike Henne, R-Clayton, was among opponents, saying the education of Ohio's youth is too important to skip instruction days, particularly when there are plenty of opportunities to make up missed sessions.
"They can make the tough decision to send the kids to school on spring break or Saturdays or whatever," he said.
Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, R-Napoleon, said the legislation means the state is foregoing some $460 million in spending with "no academic return for the kids."
He added, "In the private sector, you don't get paid if you don't serve your customers. I know that's a novel idea in the public sector where they expect to get paid for nothing, for no services rendered, which is exactly what this bill is saying we're going to do."