Ohio’s ballooning EdChoice voucher program threatens to undermine the system of public education in Ohio. The program uses a flawed school report card to unfairly label public schools as “failing” and forces districts to subsidize the cost of private school tuition. Due to recent changes by the legislature in closed doors during the conference committee of the last budget bill that was never publicized, hundreds of millions of public tax dollars will subsidize private school tuition for students, many of whom have never attended a public school.
Next school year, more than 70 percent of Ohio’s districts will have an EdChoice-eligible building. Sidney City Schools now has two because of these changes. The number of eligible buildings in the state of Ohio will mushroom from approximately 230 last year to more than 1,200 next year — a 422 percent increase.
Vouchers cost $4,650 for K-8 students and $6,000 for high school students, funneling money away from public schools to pay for private and parochial tuition. Students can keep the voucher throughout their academic career, costing taxpayers nearly $66,000 per pupil to fund a private education. I would like to point out that these vouchers are sometimes referred to as “State Funded Scholarships.” This is to give the taxpayers the illusion that the state is taking care of these costs. In reality, this money is deducted from the revenue that the state gives to Sidney City Schools and is then transferred to the private school. Sidney receives less money than the “scholarship” amount, so local tax dollars make up the rest.
Vouchers/“scholarships” also threaten districts’ ability to serve their remaining students and jeopardize the quality of those students’ educational experiences. Public school districts are held to higher standards and accountability, than private schools that do not have to use the same state tests to assess student achievement and can pick and choose what students they admit. In the end, local taxpayers who never intended for their tax dollars to go to private and parochial schools lose. Students are placed in educational settings where there is little-to-no accountability, and school districts that are doing great things for kids are inappropriately labeled as “failing.”
I urge you to contact representative Nino Vitale at 614-466-1507, Representative Susan Manchester at 614-466-6344 and Senator Matt Huffman at 614-466-7584, and tell them to stop draining funds from public school budgets. Tell them to stop funneling taxpayer dollars to private and parochial schools. Tell them it’s time to stop undermining Ohio’s system of public education, where every child is accepted and educated.
The writer is the Sidney City Schools superintendent.