McClain and Marilyn John, R-Shelby, in conjunction with CCV, announced HB 290 at a press conference in the Ohio Statehouse. It replaces a dummy bill, tabled in May and referred to the House finance committee, which declared the intention “to establish a school funding formula that allows families to choose the option for all amounts. of calculated funding associated with the education of students to follow them to the public and non-public schools they attend.
The bill has 16 co-sponsors, including Reps Bill Dean, R-Xenia, Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester, Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, Jena Powell, R-Arcanum and Paul Zeltwanger, R-Mason.
Matt Sableski, principal of Carroll High School, a private Catholic school in Dayton that has several hundred students enrolled in current voucher programs, said he was unaware of the contents of the bill but firmly believed at the choice of the school.
âAny means that we can (use to) create opportunities for individuals to make the best educational choice for their child is a good thing,â he said. âHowever, we also strongly support the need for quality public education. All schools must be strong for society to prosper.
The proposal might not increase Carroll’s enrollment much, but would make it more affordable for some current families and potential new ones, Sableski said.
Bill Phillis is executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, an alliance of local governments challenging the constitutionality of the public school funding system. He sees HB 290 as the culmination of a 30-year effort to fund and privatize any public system.
âThese people don’t understand what the constitution (of Ohio) says about education,â Phillis said. âThe constitution, article 6, section 2, states that the General Assembly shall ensure, by taxation or otherwise, a complete and effective system of common schools throughout the state.
âThese guys say the money should go to the parents of the kids, not to a common school system. It is the system that needs to be funded. Now it has been in the constitution since 1851.
Nothing in the state’s constitution provides for funding for vouchers, charter schools or individual students, he said.
For the estimated 2 million school-aged children in Ohio, the state would create a scholarship account, or ESA, that parents could spend on tuition in private schools, education home, tutoring, books or other supplies, McClain said.
Oversight of such spending would be in the hands of the state treasurer’s office, he said. The mechanism for this oversight has yet to be defined, McClain said.
It would replace the state’s existing EdChoice, EdChoice Expansion, and Cleveland scholarships, but the Autism and Jon Peterson Special Needs scholarships would remain in place, McClain said.
Dayton School Board member Jocelyn Rhynard has previously testified against voucher programs and also opposes HB 290. “Dismantling of public education” in Ohio has led to a drop in public school rankings, and that would only speed up that process, she said.
âThe voucher program takes public taxpayer money and gives it to private entities that are not accountable to the state,â Rhynard said. âPrivate schools can and do discriminate on the basis of sex, gender and disability. Non-public schools are not legally required to disclose their finances or graduation rates. Non-public schools can expel students if their test scores are poor. “
The amount donated to an ESA would be $ 5,500 per year for students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 and $ 7,500 for students in Grades 9 through 12, said Troy McIntosh, executive director of Ohio Christian Education Network, a branch of CCV. This is the current value of an EdChoice scholarship, and would be consistent for all students, he said. The amount would not vary based on the funding of each school district.
Only the portion of education funding provided by the state, and not local levies or federal contributions, would pass through to students, John said. Local and federal funding would stay in public schools, she said.
There are fears that vouchers will actually increase property taxes – used to fund education – in the long run, Rhynard said.
“State budget conservatives should be alarmed at the cost of the program in the short and long term, as well as the sustainability of the program,” she said.
About half of the state’s 120,000 private school students and all 80,000 home school students would be eligible for the extra money, Phillis said.
âWhen someone says it won’t cost more, there won’t be any additional cost, it’s either being naÃ¯ve or being dishonest. It will cost a full boat more money, âsaid Phillis. This would ultimately come from funding for public schools and decrease it, he said.
He also doubted that the treasurer’s office could effectively monitor the expenses of tens of thousands of parents.
Parents would ask the state treasurer’s office to access the program, John said. Suppliers – schools – would also have an application process.
John presented the bill as providing options and choice for parents while stimulating competition for public schools.
âWe are convinced that this will help improve education,â she said.
Six other states have approved similar programs, according to the CCV: Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Nevada, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Aaron Baer, ââpresident of the Center for Christian Virtue, touts HB 290 on October 6, 2021. Behind him are Rep. Marilyn John (left) and Rep. Riordan McClain.
Credit: Jim Gaines
Credit: Jim Gaines
Baer touts HB 290, which would allow all parents in Ohio to use state funding for private or home education.