Ohio’s school voucher expansion language was quietly slipped into the budget bill this past summer and signed into law, and according to the Columbus Dispatch, the Ohio legislature widened the definition of a low-performing school to the point of absurdity, expanding the list of districts with “under-performing” schools from 40 in the fall of 2018 to 139 in 2019 and around 400 — nearly two-thirds of all districts in the state — by 2020.
Tom Dunn, a retired school superintendent, posted a newspaper column entitled “Lies, Lies, and More Lies:” Ohio politicians continue to expand school choice options to allow parents to use tax dollars to attend private schools. This has been done through the Education Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) Program.
The Ohio Department of Education web site claims that EdChoice “provides students from underperforming public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools.”
The problem with this justification is that it isn’t true. The criteria for “underperforming” is written in such a way that even the highest performing public schools can be defined as such. In other words, the law allows parents to use tax dollars to fund their children’s private school education while “escaping” very high performing schools.
Dunn went on to point out that when their scam was exposed, our elected leaders followed the normal, hypocritical political script by demonstrating faux consternation and surprise. Many of them proclaimed that it is “crazy” that high performing schools are being “dinged” by the very law they passed.
It appears that consensus is building in Columbus to find a “fix” for Ohio’s massive increase in tax-funded tuition vouchers for parochial and private schools, and one senator, who is a leading supporter of vouchers, says he has a few proposals to “probably resolve most of the current angst.”
We cannot trust that any “quick fix” to this extreme school voucher policy will result in anything other than a slightly less extreme school voucher policy.
The EdChoice application process opens on February 1st, so public education advocates only have a few weeks to share concerns with Ohio leaders who allowed this extreme legislation to move forward.
Some ideas found below are meant to inspire and/or guide advocacy efforts.
SHARE photos and other posts on all social media platforms. Tag your state rep, senator, the governor, education organization, etc. Tag PEP @OhioPEP (Twitter & Facebook), so PEP can amplify your efforts. Suggested Hashtags: #RejectSchoolVouchers #OUCHineveryVOUCHER
SPREAD THE WORD. Use the energy and momentum of this month to educate others in your school district. Plan an informal get-together to encourage people to participate in these actions. Use this report and this article for background information, and then empower citizens and community leaders to push back against school voucher policies that benefit a small number of families at the expense of the majority of Ohio families that choose our public school districts.
- Help host public-information sessions in your school district about the negative local impact of the upcoming expansion to Ohio’s Educational Choice (EdChoice) Scholarship. Local BOE/union collaboration on this event would be powerful. Contact your community newspaper and news stations, and invite them to cover the event. Here’s a great example.
- Call and/or send an email message to your elected state leaders, and ask them to reject the expansion of EdChoice school vouchers that passed without public scrutiny. Use OSBA “Talking Points for Legislators” found here.
- Call the governor often (614-466-3555) and tell him to repeal, not “fix,” Ohio’s school voucher expansion that was covertly added to the recent state budget.
- Email Gov. DeWine and remind him that allowing the egregious school voucher expansion to diminish school district funding and resources is wrong. If the Ohio legislature wants to expand the EdChoice voucher program, its members must use separate state funds to pay for it.
- Make signs/banners to use for photos. (There’s an OUCH in every vOUCHer, Repeal EdChoice Expansion, School Vouchers Hurt Families that Choose Public School Districts, etc.) Have your children make signs as well – get kids involved. Their voices matter!
- Holding your sign, take a selfie at home or at some interesting landmark: district legislator’s office, local school, school board office, library, park, community center, sporting event… the possibilities are endless. Have fun, invite others to join you, and post on social media.
- Take action here and here against the extreme expansion of EdChoice vouchers.
- Using the OSBA Talking Points for Community, write a letter to the editor or an op-ed for your local paper sharing some reasons why you are against school vouchers being funded through our public school districts.
- Encourage your city council members and business community leaders to research the impact of school vouchers on the community. Encourage them to call the governor at 614-466-3555 to remind him to respect local control by not approving education legislation before it’s been properly vetted by both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly according to the rules established by the Ohio Constitution. Destructive school privatization policies are BAD for families and BAD for local businesses and communities.
- Encourage your local school board to pass a formal resolution rejecting the school voucher expansion in the biennial budget – signed resolutions should be forwarded to Gov. DeWine, the Ohio General Assembly, and the media. Post on social media as well. Template can be found here.
- Talk with area realtors, and give them an overview of how using our flawed report card to facilitate school voucher expansion is a form of redlining that negatively affects real estate sales. Ask them to share that information with your district’s state leaders.
We are many. There is power in our numbers. Together we will save PUBLIC EDUCATION.