LIMA — Ohio needs children educated in more than just the three R’s, and that’s why state Sen. Matt Huffman plans to introduce a bill to expand vouchers soon.
Huffman, R-Lima, met with the editorial board of The Lima News on Friday. The new state senator, who was sworn in earlier this month, said parents already look out for those in affluent areas, to send them to appropriate schools. Other parents figure out how to open enroll to nearby schools.
“But what about the poorest of the poor? Where are they going to go?” he said.
That’s where an expanded, EdChoice scholarship program, which provides students from underperforming public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools, could help, he said.
Huffman said he’d get into specifics in the future. In 2011, while serving as a state representative, he proposed an expanded voucher system.
His original bill was heavily criticized by districts worried about a mass exodus of students, so he shelved it with one that limited the number of possible students leaving. It would have deducted money from schools’ state aid to pay for the vouchers. It didn’t become law, though.
He said schools are being expected to do more of the work to raise respectful, rule-abiding children, and some schools are better suited than others.
He spoke about a mother who transferred her son, who got A’s in public schools, to a Catholic school in Lima.
“When he got there he started getting C’s, but he was learning to read and write better,” Huffman said. “More importantly, she said he was treating her a lot better, not yelling at her. He was being told how to act every day.”
He said private schools, whether Catholic, religious or otherwise, have a better opportunity to teach those other schools.
“It’s why I’m such a private-school person,” he said. “It’s why I’ll introduce a bill to expand vouchers.”
He wants whatever plan to test all students at private schools with the same measurements as the public schools get, something he said private school superintendents don’t appreciate. Right now, only students on vouchers take the tests. He said this change would give “real accountability.”
He pointed to the growth of St. Rose Catholic School in Lima as a way a growing private school can benefit an entire neighborhood.
“Other good things are happening in many cases than just a better education,” he said.
Huffman said the General Assembly’s first priority is evaluating and passing a budget before June 30. Gov. John Kasich said earlier this month he’s looking for a budget that increases spending on education.
Huffman was asked to serve on the joint education oversight committee, which is chaired by state Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima. He’s also on the Senate’s rules committee. He’ll learn about his Senate committee assignments in the coming weeks.