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Ohio Special Education Voucher Program Defeated

A voucher program that would have given up to $20,000 a year to Ohio special education students to help pay for private school tuition failed in the state's House of Representatives yesterday -- its second, and possibly last, defeat.

Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, vetoed a similar expansion bill that made it to his desk last year. But the measure was reintroduced as Senate Bill 57, passed the Ohio Senate in May on a party-line vote of 17 to 15, and was brought to the House on Wednesday. There, the vote was 49 to 44 for the measure. However, to pass, the bill would have required 50 lawmakers to support it.

Ohio already has a voucher program specifically for children diagnosed with autism. This bill would have expanded the program to children with other kinds of disabilities.

One Republican legislator, Rep. W.Scott Oelslager, crossed party lines to vote against the bill. The Democrats in the House were uniform in their opposition.

The bill would have provided for a five-year pilot program for up to 7,500 students in special education, which is equal to about three percent of the state's 250,000-student special-education enrollment, according to an article on the measure published earlier this year in The Columbus Dispatch.

Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a Republican and the bill's sponsor, is term-limited and will be leaving office in 2010. Also, after the recent elections, the new makeup of Ohio House will tilt to the Democrats, with 53 Democrats and 46 Republicans. That makes it less likely that a similar bill will find 50 House members to support it.

Other voucher programs for students with disabilities currently exist in Florida and Utah. A voucher program for students with disabilities in Arizona is currently tied up in legal challenges and is being heard by the state Supreme Court.

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