This week, the Legal Ledger is focusing on some student wellness issues in the 2024-25 Budget Bill, Ohio Am. Sub. House Bill 33 (HB 33)

First, the General Assembly enacted Ohio Revised Code (RC 3301.91) which will require the Ohio Department of Education/Department of Education and Workforce (Department) to provide reimbursements to schools participating in the national school breakfast and lunch programs. These programs provide reduced price meals for students who meet eligibility requirements.  

The new law requires the Department to provide reimbursement to schools for the difference between the federal free reimbursement rate and the reduced-price rate for breakfasts and lunches. This means that students who qualify for reduced-price meals at school should be receiving free meals. The new language in the budget bill is on page 974. 

Second, there are new requirements in RC 3317.26 for spending Student Wellness and Success Funds (SWSF). The new law borrows significantly from requirements in RC 3317.25, which governs disadvantaged pupil impact aid. RC 3317.26 requires that districts, community schools, and STEM schools that receive SWSF must spend them on any of, or a combination of, these initiatives:  

  • Mental health services, including telehealth services, community-based behavioral health services, and recovery services. 

  • Culturally appropriate, evidence-based or -informed prevention services and trauma informed services. 

  • Services for homeless youth. 

  • Services for child welfare involved youth. 

  • Community liaisons or programs that connect students to community resources, including behavioral wellness coordinators. 

  • Physical health care services, including telehealth services and community-based health services. 

  • Family engagement and support services.  

  • Student services provided prior to or after the school day or when school is not in session, including mentoring programs. (RC 3317.25(B)(1)(j) through (q)).   

At least 50% of the funds must be spent for either physical or mental health services (or a combination of both physical and mental health initiatives). If the Department determines that a district or school has not spent SWSF following these requirements, it can require a corrective action plan. If the district or school is determined to be out of compliance with the corrective action plan, the Department can withhold SWSF from the district or school.  

The law also requires that any district or school receiving SWSF must develop a plan to utilize the funds in coordination with: (1) a community mental health prevention or treatment provider or a local board of alcohol, drug addiction, and mental health services; and (2) one of the community partners listed in RC 3317.25(C). Those community partners include:  

  • An educational service center. 

  • A county board of developmental disabilities.  

  • A board of health of a city or general health district. 

  • A county department of job and family services.  

  • A nonprofit organization with experience servicing children. 

  • A public hospital agency. 

Within 30 days after the creation or amendment of the plan, it must be shared at a public meeting of the board of education or community school governing board. The plan must also be posted on the district’s or school’s website. 

If districts still have SWSF that were allocated during fiscal years 2020 to 2023, those funds must be expended prior to June 30, 2025. Any of those SWSF that are unexpended by June 30, 2025, must be repaid to the Department.  

All SWSF allocated in or after fiscal year 2024 must be spent by the end of the following fiscal year. In other words, SWSF allocated in fiscal year 2024 must be spent by the end of fiscal year 2025. Again, all funds that are not expended as required by law must be repaid to the Department. The new language is on pages 1186-87 of HB 33.  

OSBA anticipates that the Department will be providing additional guidance on these (and other Budget Bill) requirements in the next few months. We will be sharing that guidance with districts as it becomes available. In the meantime, if you have questions about the requirements, please contact OSBA’s division of legal services at (855) OSBA-LAW [(855) 672-2529]. For specific situations, reach out to your legal counsel.  

Posted by Jennifer A. Hardin on 8/4/2023