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Parent Activism, Partisan Politics and the Battle for Public Education

For years, public school districts have been the neighborhood center of most communities in the United States. Children from different backgrounds have been educated side by side, and parents have come together in a nonpartisan manner to support their kids’ local public schools.

Things have changed.

Many public schools have become the focus of far-right attacks that are more about politics than education, so parent involvement at this time needs to not only involve volunteering in the classroom- it requires some organizing to protect our public schools.

In the book, School Moms: Parent Activism, Partisan Politics and the Battle for Public Education, education journalist Laura Pappano shows how extremist challenges facing public schools have come and gone throughout history.

According to Pappano, recent efforts to make public schools more responsive and inclusive, along with the challenges of educating students during the pandemic, have given politicians on the extreme right an opening to sway parents frustrated by education disruptions.

With help from wealthy donors, political action committees, and conservative networks that bring national campaign strategists and dark money to local school board races, the extreme right is executing an agenda to use our public schools to gain political power and to instill Christian Fundamentalist values in our public-school districts.

Gerrymandered politicians in Ohio are passing anti-LGBTQ+ laws, “parental rights” legislation, and policies preventing the teaching of so-called divisive concepts to disrupt the professional selection of classroom materials and to make teachers afraid of doing their jobs.

Groups like the Leadership Institute, Moms for Liberty, Parents Rights in Education, and Protect Ohio Children (and others) are attacking history curricula they label “CRT,” banning books, and making outrageous claims that schools are “indoctrinating” students with Marxist ideologies.

These professionally organized groups are run by trained political operatives armed with ample funding and well-resourced websites, which share tips on how to make public records requests, guides for describing each of their objectionable acronyms (BLM, CRT, DEI, SEL), and easy-to-use links for reporting perceived examples of “indoctrination.” Protect Ohio Children even has an explanation of their “tsunami strategy,” a method for swamping school board meetings with written propaganda downloaded from its website.

Education historian Dr. Diane Ravitch said it best:

These fake grassroots “parent” groups also make teachers fearful of doing their jobs.

Citizen Advocates for Public Education (CAPE-Ohio) and Public Education Partners (PEP-Ohio) recently hosted a panel discussion of the far-right’s attack on public education and the parent activist battle to control the future of public education, which focused on the book “School Moms: Parent Activism, Partisan Politics and the Battle for Public Education,” by Laura Pappano.

The expert panel was selected to provide varied perspectives on the issues brought up in the book, and it included Stephanie Harless, Worthington Schools Board of Education; Antoinette Miranda, State Board of Education of Ohio and Chair of the Department of Teaching & Learning at the Ohio State University; David Stewart, Hilliard City Schools Superintendent; and Susan Yutzey, retired public school librarian and past president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association (OELMA.)

The panel members were knowledgeable, articulate, and passionate about public education, and their shared thoughts and insights encouraged the audience to think more deeply about current issues surrounding public education in Ohio.

CAPE-Ohio and PEP-Ohio also invited a public-school teacher to share an educator’s perspective on this education panel, and here is the anonymous educator’s response:

Dear CAPE-Ohio and PEP-Ohio, 

Thank you for inviting me to sit on your panel regarding School Moms: Parent Activism, Partisan Politics, and the Battle for Public Education. This is an important and urgent topic, and it’s a sad state of affairs that in 2024 we need to expend our time and energy shielding our students from bigotry.

It is sad that as a society we have become less accepting, less empathetic, less caring, and less loving.

As much as I would like to contribute to your panel, I must decline.

The group of indoctrinated parents in my district who lead these inane charges are mostly stay-at-home-moms who have nothing better to do than dig through years of past social media posts and submit endless public information requests to the district. They are looking for a boogeyman that only exists in their distorted reality without regard for the consequences of their baseless accusations.

At this time, I cannot become a target for their hostility.

Thank you for speaking up for our students, communities, and for the greater good. You are on the right side of history.

With respect and appreciation,

Anonymous Teacher

It is encouraging to know that pro-public education citizen groups are organizing on Facebook, meeting in neighborhood coffee shops, and recruiting school board candidates to counter the attacks from extremists.

Red, Wine & Blue, a national community of nearly half a million diverse women working together to defeat right-wing extremism, has started a movement called “Freedom to Parent,” a group of mainstream parents who are standing up for our freedom to decide what is best for our kids, ensure their safety, and set them up for success.

We are finally beginning to see moms, dads, grandparents, and other citizens around the country who are saying, “We care about our public schools, and we care about public education- they are the foundation of our democracy. And we are going to make sure that the public is informed enough to vote for candidates who share our values.”

Ordinary parents around the country, who have made themselves experts in school board policy, library science, state legislation, campaign finance, and who have even recruited or run for school board seats themselves, have become our public education heroes.

It is time for all of us to join them in this fight for the future of public education.

Our children deserve no less.


“We are many. There is power in our numbers. Together we will save PUBLIC EDUCATION.”
~Diane Ravitch




The 2023 Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Organizing Goes to PEP

The Network for Public Education’s NPE/NPE Action Conference, Public Schools: Where Democracy Grows, was held in Washington, D.C. on October 28-29, 2023. This 10th anniversary conference was attended by over 400 passionate defenders of public education from around the country.

Phyllis Bush, founder of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) and a member of the NPE Board, had once written: “Seeing old friends and meeting new education activists is energizing and hopeful. In this brave new world of education privatization, it is easy to become dispirited and frustrated, and yet being together with like-minded folks is engaging, inspiring, and thoughtful and gives hope that together we can be the voice of reason and the change that we want.”


After opening remarks from NPE Executive Director Carol Burris and a welcoming address by NPE President Diane Ravitch, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, president of the National Academy of Education, eloquently presented the conference’s opening keynote, entitled “Regaining a ‘Public’ for Public Education.” What an appropriate topic in this year filled with so many attacks on our system of public schools.

A column published by Ohio’s Jan Resseger revealed that many of the other speakers called the growing attack on public education, combined with rapid expansion of private school vouchers and privately operated charter schools, an existential threat to the primary institutions that anchor every small town, city neighborhood and suburb: the public schools that continue to educate the majority of our children.

Phyllis Bush would have been outraged to see that the injustices have grown exponentially, but she would be proud to know that we are still fighting to save public education for our teachers, our students, our communities, our democracy.

One of her favorite lines was from the 1976 classic movie, Network, where Peter Finch throws open his window, leans out of it, and yells, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” Perhaps the reasons why this line resonates so strongly with me is that I look at the world around me and see wrongs that need to be righted and injustices that need to be corrected. Yet some people who have assumed leadership roles in our society can only seem to come up with simplistic, Band-Aid answers.

Phyllis retired from teaching in 1999 after 32 years and soon realized that there were too many injustices in public education that needed her attention; thus began her writing op-eds. Her mission was to inform as many people as she could about what was happening to public education. Too often the focus is on the bottom line, measuring success by scores on achievement tests, by dollars spent and by media spin; our students become products rather than thinking, caring human beings.

A colon cancer diagnosis in 2017 might have slowed her down, but it did not stop her. It was at the 2018 NPE Conference in Indianapolis where Phyllis was speechless for the very first time as NPE announced the Phyllis Bush Memorial Award for Grassroots Organizing. Phyllis died in March 2019, but her legacy will continue to live on through the Phyllis Bush Award, an annual award that is given to a group that best exemplifies the ideals of Phyllis Bush.

Dan Greenberg, member of the NPE Action Board, presented this year’s Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Organizing to Public Education Partners (PEP) of Ohio. Phyllis’s wife, Donna, was unable to attend the conference, but her thoughtful narrative was included in Dan’s remarks.

Dan said that the formation and growth of Northeast Indiana Friends of Public Education (NEIFPE) had a direct impact on him and on PEP.

He recalled that in 2013, Phyllis and the other members of NEIFPE hosted a conference and invited people from Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio to attend to discuss issues and concerns in public education in their states. Dan and Maureen Reedy were among the attendees of that conference, and they returned to Ohio energized and inspired to form Friends of Public Education advocacy organizations around the state. Through this process, Phyllis was instrumental- Dan called her often, seeking advice, learning from what she and her friends had done in Northeast Indiana.

With the formation of several regional Friends of Public Education groups, they decided to form a statewide advocacy group called Public Education Partners.

Over the years, PEP has organized many community events, such as a statewide conference for public education advocates. Its members have lobbied at the Ohio Statehouse and have testified before the Ohio House and Senate. Board members host PEP rallies at the statehouse. PEP leaders have written countless letters to the editor on subjects like vouchers, charter schools, standardized testing. The organization educates and engages individuals on education issues, as it has grown its social media presence to over 30,000 followers.

The existence of Public Education Partners and the success PEP has experienced over the past eight years would not have been possible without Phyllis Bush.

Below is a quote from one of NEIFPE‘s earliest blog posts, which Phyllis wrote in 2013. 

As I have grown older, I have become more aware of who I am. I will always be a teacher. Helping others discover their strengths and find their own voices is what I love doing. Standing up for, respecting, and defending the voiceless is the fire that has burned within me for as long as I can remember. Pushing back against injustice is what gives me a reason to get up each morning.

The Board of Public Education Partners is honored to have received the Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Organizing in 2023. PEP will continue working to fulfill Phyllis’s legacy by standing up for, respecting, and defending the voiceless, while pushing back against the injustice directed towards public education.

~Donna Roof, Dan Greenberg, & Jeanne Melvin

Resolution Against the Takeover of the State School Board of Ohio

WHEREAS, in 1953, Ohioans voted to remove the Ohio Department of Education from the Governor, because it had become too political, and made the State Board of Education of Ohio a fourth branch of government; and

WHEREAS, in 2022, thousands of Ohioans cast votes to elect new state school board members who had campaigned on dedicating the board to educational policy pursuits, rather than current culture war issues;

WHEREAS, soon after the 2022 election, a bill was introduced by the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee, supported by Gov. DeWine, to take over the Ohio Department of Education and the State Board of Education, thereby nullifying several thousand votes; and

WHEREAS, the state takeover bill did not pass in the Ohio Legislature, though it was unconstitutionally included in the FY 2024-2025 state budget; and

WHEREAS, in a last-minute Education Takeover Rider to the biennial budget bill, the General Assembly stripped the State School Board, the Ohio Department of Education, and the State Superintendent of Education of their core powers; and

WHEREAS, most of those core powers are slated to be transferred to a new Department of Education and Workforce under the control of political appointees of Gov. Mike DeWine; and

WHEREAS, Ohio’s current system includes elected representatives in direct oversight of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Ohio Department of Education, ensuring that the will of the public is well-represented.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Public Education Partners of Ohio supports the lawsuit filed against Gov. Mike DeWine’s education takeover and asks the court to void the unconstitutional State of Ohio Education Takeover from the FY 2024-2025 state budget.


Please sign and share this petition to show your support for the State School Board and the Ohio Department of Education.

Public, Private, and Charter School Use in Ohio’s 88 Counties

Where do Ohio’s children receive their education?
by Susie Kaeser, Education Specialist for the League of Women Voters of Ohio

Education is fundamental in our democracy. Every state constitution has a provision for that state to operate and fund a system of public education in order to guarantee universal access to education.

Ohio youth, however, have multiple options beyond the 610 public school districts and 49 joint vocational districts in the public system. Funding is not mandated by the Constitution for these education sources, but legislation over the last 25 years has resulted in the use of public funds for tuition to chartered private schools and charter schools, and tax credits for home schooling.

Most of Ohio’s K-12 students attend a public school operated by a public school district. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) collects enrollment data on multiple education sources, and reports it on the ODE website. The most recent data for private education is for 2022-23. The other options are for the 2021-22 school year.  Based on that data, this is what enrollment looks like in Ohio.

Table 1: K-12 Education Sources

Public school districts    1,498,628

Chartered nonpublic         169,762

Charter schools                  111,754

Home schooled                    47,819

Joint Vocational                   45,304

STEM Schools                         3,714

State Supported                        534

This analysis focuses on the number of students enrolled in three options: public school districts, chartered private schools, and charter schools. These are the largest categories, and all are funded in the same line item in the state budget. They are in direct competition for state foundation funds.

Both public school districts and Joint Vocational School (JVS) districts are publicly funded, regulated, and accountable to locally elected school boards. They are public schools. This analysis focuses specifically on the enrollment in public school district schools only.

In 1997 the legislature created a new education category: a charter school. Nonprofit and for-profit organizations can sponsor a school or multiple schools, and operate them without oversight by an elected board of education. The state imposes few regulations on these schools. All students who are accepted by the charter school – or community school as they are called in Ohio – are funded by the state with a tuition scholarship. According to a report by the Legislative Service Commission, in FY 2022 the state spent $1 billion on 111,754 charter school students. The Ohio Department of Education defines charter school students as a subgroup of public education students, but charter schools operate without most mandates required of public schools operated by a school district.

State education laws also allow students to attend chartered nonpublic schools or to be taught by a parent at home, an option that is granted by the local public district. Chartered nonpublic schools, referred to as private schools in this study, operate with approval by the Ohio Department of Education, and earn this status by being accredited or by promising “to provide a high-quality general education.” Religious education is acceptable and so is participation in the state funded voucher programs. They operate with minimal state monitoring or oversight.

Public funds for private school tuition are now available through five different voucher programs. Not all chartered nonpublic schools accept vouchers and not all children are eligible to use them.  Each program has eligibility criteria. The requirements have been relaxed over time. To access a voucher an eligible student must be accepted by a participating private school, and then apply to the ODE for a voucher.  According to the Legislative Service Commission report on school choice programs, about 75,000 students, nearly 45% of private school students, received a voucher in 2021-22 at a cost of $553.4 million.

The legislature continues to use the state budget and free-standing legislation to increase the use of public funds for private education. HB 11 and SB 11 introduced in 2023 would expand private choices to more students, to a new category of private school, and create a new tool, education savings accounts. The state budget proposed by the Governor would make EdChoice vouchers available to households whose income is up to 400% of poverty and the House budget raises that to 450%. Whatever the vehicle, if any option is approved it will increase state expenditures for private education and conflict with the state’s primary funding responsibility: a system of public schools.

Why Analyze the Data

Countywide enrollment data for public schools, private education, and charter schools is available for each of Ohio’s 88 counties on the Ohio Department of Education’s website “Reports Portal.”

Ohio is a diverse state and this data makes it possible to see the role each of these education options plays in different parts of the state, and where policy changes will have the most impact. Because state legislative districts are better aligned with county boundaries than with school district boundaries, this data can help identify for each legislative district what options exist, and the impact on students and public schools of expanding funds for private education.

Public School Enrollment

I rank ordered counties by the size of the enrollment in traditional public-school districts, and grouped them in 12 size intervals using the 2021-22 school year data. To facilitate easy comparisons, I condensed this into four larger categories. I used this data to create Map 1.

Table 2: Public School Enrollment by County – 2021-22 School Year

# Students/County        # of Counties

1-2000                                         5

2,001- 4,000                              8

4,001- 6,000                             18

6,001- 8,000                             15

8,001-10,000                              9

10,001-15,000                             9

15,001- 25,000                            8

25,001- 35,000                            6

35,001- 45,000                            2

45,001- 60,000                            3

60,000- 80,000                           2

100,000+                                       3


Table 3: Public School Enrollment by County – 2021-22 School Year

Enrollment Band –                        # of Counties
# Public School Students

1,600 – 8,000                                            46

8,001 – 15,000                                           18

15,100 – 50,000                                        16

50,000 – 196,000                                       8

Total Counties                                            88



    1. There are dramatic differences by county in the number of students enrolled in Ohio’s public schools. County wide enrollment ranges between as few as 1,690 students in Noble and Morgan counties, and close to 170,000 in Franklin County. Enrollment in the largest county is about 100 times that of the smallest.
    2. There are 8 counties with more than 50,000 students. Together they account for 46% of all the public-school students in the state. Ohio’s 6 largest cities – Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Akron, Dayton, and Toledo are located in these urban counties, as are Canton (Stark County) and Hamilton (Butler County), the state’s 8th and 10th largest Ohio cities.
    3. While most Ohio public school students attend school in the 8 largest counties, most Ohio counties are rural and are characterized by a small number of students. 46 of Ohio’s 88 counties – more than half of all counties in Ohio, have between 1,600 and 8,000 students, and 9 more have fewer than 10,000 students. There are 25 counties with between 10,000 and 45,000 public school students.

Charter School Use

Charter schools, also known as community schools, began as a pilot project in Lucas County in 1998. They now exist as brick and mortar or on-line schools. Some are chartered by public school districts, but most sponsoring organizations are not public entities. Many are managed by for-profit corporations.  Advocates for charter schools, like supporters of vouchers, insisted that because of test performance urban public schools were failing and students needed an alternative at public expense. Based on this misuse of test scores, they chose a rescue plan for a few students without addressing needs of the students whose education they criticized.

Most of the charter schools that have come and gone over the last 25 years have been located in counties with urban centers and concentrated poverty, the primary predictor of test scores. Charter school enrollment state wide in 2021-22 was 111,754.

I used enrollment numbers from the Ohio Department of Education to rank order charter school use by county, and then created four categories of use. The distribution is shown on Map 2.

Table 4: Charter School Enrollment by County – 2021-22 School Year

Source: ODE Reports Portal, Charter School Students 2022

# Charter school             # Counties

0– 400                                    71

401 – 1,000                              6

1,001 – 9,000                          8

20,000 – 25,000                     3

Total                                         88

Observations about Charter School Enrollment

  1. Charter schools are not relevant in most Ohio counties. 93% of charter school students live in 11 counties. There are none in 57 counties, fewer than 400 charter students in 15 counties, and between 401 and 1,000 in 6 counties.
  2. Charter school students are concentrated in three urban counties: Cuyahoga, Franklin, and Lucas. Each has between 22,000 and 25,000 charter students and combined they account for 64% of the charter school students in Ohio.
  3. Another 29% of charter school students are found in 8 counties where charter school enrollment is greater than 1,000 but less than 9,000. This includes 4 counties with large urban districts: Hamilton, Montgomery, Summit and Stark, and four other smaller counties: Marion, Richland, Lorain, and Mahoning. Together they enroll 32,762 charter school students.

Chartered Private Schools

According to ODE data for the 2022-23 school year, about 169,000 students attend a chartered private school in Ohio. Access to private education is neither universal nor uniform across the state. Private schools, unlike public schools, can accept or reject an applicant. For some students the cost may discourage seeking this option. Nearly every private school is religious and caters to a specific population. In many places there are not enough people to make it efficient or feasible to operate a private school so there are not any private schools to attend.

I rank ordered counties by the number of students enrolled in chartered nonpublic schools, using data from the ODE website “Reports Portal” for 2022-23 school year, and grouped them into four categories based on size. The distribution is arrayed on Map 3. I also collected for each county the number of chartered private schools in each county. There are a total of 714 chartered private schools.

Table 5: Private School Enrollment by County – 2022-23 School Year

# Private Students/County  # Counties

0-405                                               49

406-1,000                                       16

1,000-5,000                                    17

9,000-32,400                                   6

            Total                                     88


Table 6: Number of Chartered Private Schools by County – 2022-23 School Year

# Private Schools/County   # Counties

0-4                                                   60

5-10                                                  16

11-20                                                  6

21-121                                                 6

Total                                                 88




    1. Like public school enrollment, private school numbers vary widely across the state. The likelihood of there being a private school increases with the size of public-school enrollment. More than half of Ohio’s 88 counties are rural, and private school options are limited. There are 11 counties without any private school students or schools.
    2. Private school enrollment numbers are significantly smaller than public school numbers in the 77 counties where there are private schools. Private enrollment ranges between 26 students in Athens County and 32,315 in Cuyahoga County.
    3. Most of the public-school population is concentrated in Ohio’s 8 largest urban counties, and so is the private school population. The 8 largest counties have 46% of the public-school population and 71% of private school students. The 443 private schools in these 8 counties account for 62% of the chartered nonpublic schools in the state. For these 8 counties, the number of students enrolled per county ranges between 3,175 in Stark County and 32,000 in Cuyahoga.
    4. There are 15 counties with between 1,000 and 5,000 private school students who attend 130 different private schools. This includes Geauga and Huron county that have relatively small numbers of public-school kids, and 13 larger counties with between 15,000 and 45,000 public school students. The number of private schools per county ranges between 7 and 16.
    5. Public education is the only consistently available education choice in Ohio’s 46 small counties – those with less than 8,000 public school students. There are 63 private schools scattered across these 46 counties. There are 11 counties without any private schools, 15 have one, and 14 have two. None of these counties has more than 3 private schools.
    6. A total of about 7,000 students from these 46 counties combined attends a private school, about 4% of the private school students in Ohio. Of these counties, 11 have no private school students, and 30 have fewer than 300. Five have between 340 and 480 private school students.
    7. Lawrence, Pickaway, Marian and Tuscarawas counties have more than 8,000 public school students but have fewer than 400 private school students and between 1 and 3 private schools.
    8. There are 16 counties that have more than 10,000 public school students and between 410 and 1,000 private school students. There are 141 private schools in these counties.
    9. Private education is a viable alternative in northeast and southwest Ohio’s more densely populated counties, Franklin County and Lucas County, and a few outliers like Allen, Wood and Richland Counties. However, the northwest, central, and southeast are public school dependent.


Sources of Private Education in Ohio’s 46 Counties with Smallest Student Population

Private school use is minimal in the majority of Ohio’s counties. This is especially true in the 46 counties with smallest student population.  A total of 61 private schools can be found in these counties. There are 11 counties that do not have any private schools; 15 have 1 private school, 14 have 2, and 6 counties have three schools each.


Table 7: Features of Private Schools by # of Private Schools in Each County for 46 Rural Counties

Provider    1 school/county    2 schools/county    3 schools/county      Total

Catholic       8 Elementary           16 Elementary          10  Elementary       34

1 K-12                                                        1 High School           2

Christian                                           3 Elementary            1 Elementary           4

5 K-12                          4 K-12                      1K-12                   10

Lutheran                                               3 Elementary         2 Elementary           5

7th Day Adventist                                                                   1 Elementary          1

Other                  1 Elementary            2 Elementary            2 K-12                    5

Total                      15 schools                28 schools             18 schools              61                                                                                                                                          schools


Table 8: Enrollment Size for Private Schools in Each County for 46 Rural Counties

1 school/county    2 schools/county   3 schools/county       Total

# Students     # Schools             # Schools                    # Schools

10-100                4                                 15                                 10                 29 Schools

101-200              9                                 10                                   6                 25 Schools

201-450              2                                   3                                    2                   7 Schools

Total                    15                                28                                 18                  61 Schools


The 46 smallest counties have 8% of the private schools in Ohio. Rural nonpublic schools in these counties have these characteristics:

  1. They are religious schools. The 5 schools that are not listed as a religious school include 4 special education programs, and one Montessori school. There are 36 Catholic schools, 14 Christian, 5 Lutheran, and 1 7th Day Adventist.
  2. They are mostly elementary schools. The Lutheran and 7th Day Adventist schools are K-6 or K-8 schools, as are 34 of the 36 Catholic schools and 5 Christian.
  3. There is one free-standing high school with 150 students. High school students are enrolled in 1 Catholic and 10 Christian K-12 schools.
  4. Rural private schools are small schools. The largest school has 436 students. Only 7 enroll more than 200 students, and 29 have fewer than 100.

What Does the Distribution of Education Options Mean for Funding Education? 

Ohio is known for having an unconstitutional system for funding public education, and for having one of the most extensive sets of options for using public funds to pay for private education. Pending legislation and the state budget both include ways to once again ratchet up the possibilities for who can use public funds and where they can spend them for an education outside of traditional public-school districts. The state budget also proposes continuation of the first sustainable funding formula that if fully funded would provide for a constitutional public education funding system.

As lawmakers and voters consider how to best use public resources, it is important to consider the impact on making public school funding constitutional, and how the nonpublic options will affect the communities in our very diverse state.

This analysis helps to connect these options to Ohio’s 88 counties.  It is possible to see exactly where these options are significant, who benefits, and who pays. The impact is quite different, depending on where you live. In every county, public education is the primary education opportunity. But in rural counties, the public system is the only universally available choice. Strengthening the public system is in the best interest of all of Ohio. More spending on private education is not.

This analysis indicates:

  1. The vast majority of students in all 88 Ohio counties attends a public school. Policies that take funds away from public schools are harmful to public schools everywhere in the state.
  2. Private and charter schools are concentrated in urban counties, and about a dozen counties with more than 50,000 public school students. These options do not exist in most of Ohio’s rural or mid-sized counties – more than half the counties in Ohio. Public funding for private education is not useful to students in most rural counties. Rural taxpayers underwrite private choice in the state – but not where they live.
  3. The private schools that do exist in rural Ohio are narrowly focused. They cater to specific religious groups, are mostly elementary schools, and have small enrollments that limit educational opportunities. These attributes further limit who benefits from private funding.
  4. If public funds for private school tuition encourage students to leave a public school, it is harmful to the students who remain in the school district they leave. This transition rarely reduces costs, but always diminishes the resources and opportunities available to public schools. This is especially harsh in rural counties where small enrollment numbers make every public dollar important and every student essential to having the scale needed to offer a robust education
  5. While urban youth have access to multiple education options because there is sufficient density to support them, diverting public funds from public schools to these alternatives weakens the capacity of the public system to provide quality education to everyone, as required by the Constitution.
  6. The best way to secure quality education for all students, is to invest in the public system and remove any incentives to leave it.


By mapping the location of public, private and charter school students it is possible to better see the diversity of our state and the realities of our residents – where they live. Policies impact places.

Legislators representing Ohio’s rural counties can best serve their constituents by investing the state’s education resources in making sure that every student has access to a high-quality public education, regardless of the capacity of their community to fund it.

We have a public education system to ensure that all communities have the benefit of educated citizens. The founders of our state were right. Public education is the only universally available and accessible education opportunity in the state. That counts!

Democracy cannot afford to squander that reliable and accountable system.


Ohio Department of Education. Reports Portal, Nonpublic Data. https://reports.education.ohio.gov

Ohio Department of Education. Reports, Portal, Public Data. https://reports.education.ohio.gov

Ohio Department of Education. Reports Portal, Scholarship Data. https://reports.education.ohio.gov

Ohio Legislature. Budget Documents. Education. Reportshttps://legislature.ohio.gov//publications

Ohio Department of Education. https://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Ohio-Educationoptions

Ohio Department of Education. https://education.ohio.gov/Topics/other/-resources/scholarships

*Authors Note

The April 6 version of this analysis used data for all categories of education that the Department of Education includes as “Public Education.” This includes charter schools, STEM, Joint Vocational Districts, and Public-School Districts.

This version focuses exclusively on schools operated by Public School Districts. This is the option that is available in every community and is the primary education resource in the state. It resulted in Shelby and Mercer counties moving into the smallest population category: under 8,000 public school students.




HB 171 – Curriculum Made in Ohio

Public Education Partners is strongly opposed to Ohio House Bill 103. HB 103 seeks to replace curriculum created in Ohio, for Ohio’s schools and students, with so-called American Birthright social studies standards created by out-of-state interests to indoctrinate children with partisan political views. Social studies standards included in American Birthright represent extreme efforts to overhaul public K-12 curricula to align with the dictates of culture war ideology.

The National Council for the Social Studies has determined that the suggested social studies American Birthright standards developed by the Civics Alliance do not align with best practices related to the development of social studies standards, and it does support the use of these standards.

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) is an American politically conservative education advocacy organization aimed at “reforming higher education” by advocating against multiculturalism, diversity policies, and courses focused on race and gender issues. In 2021, NAS created the Civics Alliance to promote the 1776 Curriculum, published by Hillsdale College, to “reform K-12 education.” One of its initiatives is the American Birthright set of K-12 social studies standards.

According to a detailed investigative report about the American Birthright curriculum by Kathryn Joyce, much of American Birthright reflects recent education fights. Read Kathryn Joyce’s report for more ludicrous examples of “standards” included in American Birthright social studies standards.

Dr. Mary Lightbody is an experienced educator and true scholar on the Ohio House Primary and Secondary Education Committee who has sponsored House Bill 171 to bring multiculturalism to social studies lessons in our K-12 classrooms. Lightbody’s made-in-Ohio bill would include information about the history and contributions of cultural minority groups into a model curriculum for social studies classes.

HB 171 has been assigned to Ohio House  Primary & Secondary Education Committee for its first hearing on Tuesday, June 20, at 4:00pm.

Considering House Bill 171, Honesty for Ohio Education shared on its website: Ohio has a rich history of contributions and contributors, at the local level, around the state, nationally and internationally. We deserve social studies model curricula that reflects our diverse histories and communities.

Diversifying our social studies means more students will see themselves in their curriculum. Multiple studies show that culturally relevant instruction is more engaging to students, resulting in better academic outcomes. A 2020 study from the National Education Association showed that students of color, in particular, who participated in courses that reflected different identities, cultures, and backgrounds had a greater sense of belonging and sense of self.

Students care about themselves and others more when diverse histories and identities are taught. When students’ identities are reflected in the classroom, students behave more positively toward themselves, their educators, and their peers. Research has found “a statistically significant association between observations of culturally responsive teaching and proactive behavior management practices.”

In order for students to be prepared to participate in our multiracial democracy and economy, students need to understand the contributions and legacies of many diverse communities.

While House Bill 171 would revise our current K12 social studies model curriculum to include instruction on the migration, experiences, and contributions of diverse communities, House Bill 103 would radically replace the current standards with the extreme American Birthright program to emphasize Western history, American exceptionalism, patriotism, and Christianity over civic engagement.

HB 103 is a dishonest attempt to micromanage Ohio K-12 educational curriculum based on ideology that is rooted in the politically motivated culture wars- it needs to be thrown out.

Ask the Ohio House Primary and Secondary Education Committee to seriously consider House Bill 171 and then focus on passing this culturally relevant curriculum policy-  MADE IN OHIO!

Ohio Politics Simplified

This is the Statehouse that GREED bought.

These are the extremists
Who reign in the Statehouse that GREED bought.

This is ALEC
That empowers the extremists
Who reign in the Statehouse that GREED bought.

These are the lobbyists
Who represent ALEC
With corporate money
That pays for the Statehouse that GREED bought.

These are the bureaucrats,
United in ALEC,
Close friends with the lobbyists
With corporate money
That pays for the Statehouse that GREED bought.

This is the gerrymander:
Safe districts for bureaucrats,
United in ALEC,
Close friends with the lobbyists
With corporate money
That pays for the Statehouse that GREED bought.

These are the people
Without representation
Who are governed by bureaucrats,
United in ALEC,
Close friends with the lobbyists
With corporate money
That pays for the Statehouse that GREED bought.

These are the activists
Who speak for the people
Without representation
Who are governed by bureaucrats,
United in ALEC,
Close friends with the lobbyists
With corporate money
That pays for the Statehouse that GREED bought.

These are elections
That really are crucial
For ALL of the people
Without representation
Who are governed by bureaucrats
United in ALEC,
Close friends with the lobbyists
With corporate money
That pays for the Statehouse that GREED bought.

Every election is
Very important,
So vote to give people
More representation.
Remember the extremists
And all of the bureaucrats,
United in ALEC,
Close friends with the lobbyists
With corporate money.
Let’s take back the Statehouse that GREED bought!

Fully Fund Fair School Funding

Did you know that the Ohio House Finance Committee is hearing testimony on Ohio HB 33, the budget bill, and that the budget will house the much needed phase-in of Ohio’s Fair School Funding Plan?

In the previous budget, Ohio lawmakers only provided enough funding to cover about one-third of the Fair School Funding Plan, and they did not commit to full funding over six years. They now have an opportunity to invest in the majority of Ohio’s school children and their families by fully funding Ohio’s Fair School Funding Plan.

Read more about the history behind the Fair School Funding Plan.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in DeRolph v. State of Ohio (1997) that Ohio’s method for funding schools through the state’s school foundation program was unconstitutional under Article VI, Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution, and in DeRolph, the Ohio Supreme Court declared that Ohio’s school funding system was over-reliant on local property taxes and was inherently discriminatory to children based on where they reside for disparities exist between communities of affluence and impoverishment.

Since the DeRolph decision, the Ohio General Assembly has failed to fully fund a system that meets Ohio’s constitutional standard of securing “… a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.” For many years, Ohio’s solution to satisfy the Ohio Supreme Court’s order has been to pass a series of biennial budgets containing politically expedient remedies that have not eliminated the over-reliance on local property tax or mitigated the discriminatory nature inherent in the series of “funding fixes” legislated over the last 26 years.

Former Ohio House Speaker Robert Cupp (R) and former Rep. John Patterson (D) convened a statewide workgroup, made up of eight practicing school district CFO/Treasurers and eight practicing Superintendents (the “Cupp-Patterson Workgroup”), to devise a new formula, and recognizing that Ohio needs an overhaul to its school funding system, spent over three years determining the inputs necessary to fund a “thorough and efficient system of common schools” that reduces the over-reliance on local property tax and creates equity in the state foundation system.

This workgroup carefully analyzed national research, best practices, actual Ohio school district spending data, and drew on their own extensive experience in educating students and operating school districts to make recommendations for a school funding system that would meet the needs of all Ohio’s students in the 21st century.

The Cupp-Patterson Workgroup developed recommendations that laid out a rational, transparent, comprehensive and – most of all – fair system for funding schools based on the actual cost of providing a basic education for all students in Ohio (the “Base Cost”), and it developed a method of sharing the funding of the Base Cost between the state and local taxpayers that is easy to understand and based on a fair, defensible measure of the capacity to generate funds locally.

This bipartisan workgroup identified and provided a framework for providing additional resources to meet needs beyond those of basic education, including the areas of the social, emotional, safety, and mental health of students, the additional challenges driven by students living in poverty, with special needs, with limited English proficiency, and who are academically gifted, and developed sound recommendations for properly funding Career Technology Centers, Educational Service Centers, and Charter and Community schools.

Based on this research and detailed work, the Cupp-Patterson Workgroup produced and recommended the Fair School Funding Plan, intending it as an investment in Ohio’s children and Ohio’s future.

Again, Ohio lawmakers have only provided enough funding to cover about one-third of the Fair School Funding Plan, and they did not commit to full funding over six years.

Please contact your state legislators and tell them to follow through on this opportunity to invest in the majority of Ohio’s school kids and families by fully funding and supporting the continued implementation of Ohio’s Fair School Funding Plan in the upcoming state budget- House Bill 33.

The italicized text in this post was inspired by many Ohio school district resolutions entitled, “A Resolution to Endorse the Fair School Funding Plan and to Encourage the General Assembly to Expedite Its Passage.”

Ohio kids can’t wait any longer!

Legal Sports Betting in Ohio Will Benefit Private and Parochial Schools

Money from the state Lottery represents just a small percent of Ohio’s spending on primary and secondary public education, but it still transferred about $1.2 billion to the Lottery Profits Education Fund in fiscal year 2019.

Last year around this time, Gov. Mike DeWine signed into law HB 29, the bill legalizing Ohio sports betting, and gave the Ohio Casino Control Commission a little less than a year to enact its provisions, with a start date of no later than Jan. 1, 2023.

Public Education advocates had been opposed to Casino control of sports betting, with the concern that Lottery profits, which go to public education, would be adversely affected. If Lottery profits ever suffer, it is very unlikely that legislators would make up the difference.

Under Ohio’s new law that puts Casinos in charge, sports betting profits could be used not only to support public schools, but private and parochial education as well.

According to research from Pew Charitable Trust, states have seen their lottery profits suffer with the arrival of competition from new forms of gambling, such as legal sports betting.

If you are now being flooded with sports betting promotions offering a “free $500,’’ don’t be fooled. John and Jane Taxpayer are footing the bill for those promos.

Ohio is the rare state that lets casinos write off every nickel of promotional play, sometimes called “free” play. So if you place a bet through a casino sports book, and you take advantage of any promotion offering free wagers,
the casinos write it off – and taxpayers help pay for casino marketing.

After that lucrative tax break, casinos won another victory: control of legal sports betting in Ohio – which is supposed to go live by January 1st. It was recently revealed that it will ONLY universally go live at casinos — not at Lottery-controlled bars and restaurants that fought for a small piece of sports betting.

One main mission of the Lottery is to maximize lottery profits. What the Lottery has done about sports betting is to encourage unnecessary competition for the Lottery by urging casino oversight, then slow-walking licensing
for vendors who want to participate by offering it to lottery retailers.

This will give casinos a big head start – and a bigger tax break. And it will boost money into a state fund that can be used for non-public schools – just as the GOP is facing growing opposition to its short-sighted voucher expansion.

The Associated Press has an exposé that could explain why Casino interests tend to get their way in Ohio. Among the highlights:

Gambling interests positioning for lucrative business as Ohio remakes its betting landscape donated nearly $1 million to a nonprofit group that helped successfully reelect Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a key decision-maker regarding the market’s future, an Associated Press review found.

During the same period, the Republican Governors Association (RGA) funneled over $2.2 million through its campaign arm, RGA Right Direction PAC, to benefit DeWine’s successful reelection bid against three primary opponents and later Democrat Nan Whaley, records show. Most of that money went to two pro-DeWine committees: Free Ohio PAC and the Delaware-based dark money group Ohioans for Free and Fair Elections, whose public filings so far haven’t disclosed its organizers. The RGA did not respond to repeated AP requests for comment.

In one case the AP turned up, one of the gambling companies, IGT Global Solutions, donated to the RGA, which donated to Right Direction PAC, which donated to Free Ohio PAC — all on the same day. The instance raises questions about whether RGA was used as a pass-through to benefit DeWine.

All told, Right Direction PAC gave $1.05 million to Free Ohio and another $1.15 million to Ohioans for Free and Fair Elections as of September, records show.

Governor DeWine had originally justified sports betting as something that is already occurring, “so it’s time to bring in Ohio, to regulate it, and get a little more money for schools.”

The way that it has been set up though, under the control of the Ohio Casino Control Commission rather than the Ohio Lottery Commission, has been designed as another way to funnel public money to private and religious schools.

Ohioans mustn’t be conned into thinking they are supporting their neighborhood public schools with online sports betting in the Buckeye State.


Reject the State BOE’s Harmful, Coercive, and Burdensome Resolution

Ohio citizens, educators, parents and lawmakers are speaking out against the newest State Board of Education of Ohio resolution, which opposes federal protections for LGBTQ+ youth.

State board member Brendan Shea introduced the “Resolution to Support Parents, Schools, and Districts in Rejecting Harmful, Coercive, and Burdensome Gender Policies.”

First of all, it’s ludicrous that this resolution is being promoted as “supporting parents, schools, and districts” with gender identity policies, when in reality, it’s simply a citation of a board member’s personal beliefs and political ideology.

According to the Roles & Responsibilities of the Board in its Policies and Procedures Manual, “The State Board is required to provide accurate, appropriate and timely data on the status, problems and needs of Ohio education to the citizens of Ohio, the governor and General Assembly to enable informed decisions regarding education.”

This resolution does not provide accurate and appropriate information, although in this politically-charged climate, it certainly is timely.

Sadly, Mr. Shea’s 3+ page document doesn’t reflect scientific and factual information; it even spreads falsehoods and misstates legal precedent. Not only does this resolution perpetuate harmful practices against LGBTQ+ youth, but it also directs local school districts to ignore federal laws if they don’t agree with them.

Ohioans expect their state school board to protect ALL students from harmful and traumatic discrimination and to help create a safe and welcoming learning environment for EVERYONE.

The upcoming discussion about this lawless resolution will be a frivolous waste of our school board’s precious time, while other more important issues are put aside.

All children in the Buckeye State deserve to be respected and valued for who they are- even those kids who are not what some people may want them to be.

Ohioans must implore the state school board to reject this harmful, coercive, and burdensome resolution!

Building Safe Schools Without Arming School Personnel

According to the Ohio Capital Journal, individual teachers, teachers’ unions, the Fraternal Order of Police, anti-gun violence activists and others opposed the policy, but Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation in June that could allow teachers to carry firearms in the classroom.

House Bill 99 grants local boards of education authority to decide whether to allow their teachers and school workers to carry firearms. Whether the bill establishes a quantitative legal minimum has been disputed. However, it says local school boards must require up to 24 hours of training from teachers before they can carry. Boards could choose to mandate more but this isn’t required.

Prior law coupled with a recent state Supreme Court ruling required teachers to complete 700 hours of training before carrying, effectively forbidding the practice. The new law takes effect in September of 2022.

“This is a local choice, not mandated by the legislature nor by the government,” DeWine said to reporters. “Each school board will determine what is best for their students, their staff and their community.”

The SAFE OHIO SCHOOLS workshop has been designed to give local school leaders, good government groups, and community members detailed information and resources to help them understand all of the implications surrounding HB 99.

Please consider signing up for the SAFE OHIO SCHOOLS workshop, hosted by Honesty for Ohio Education- the training will be held virtually on Wednesday, July 27, at 6:00 PM.

“Building Safe Schools Without Arming School Personnel”

Learn how to build safe schools that protect students, educators, and staff WITHOUT arming school personnel.

Hear from experts, education leaders, and advocates about best practices and steps your school can take to protect, not “harden” your school.

Workshop includes:
• History of arming school personnel in Ohio
• Best practices for safe schools
• Drafting and passing a Safe Ohio Schools resolution
• Taking the Safe Ohio Schools Pledge
• Sharing your Safe Ohio Schools policy
• Toolkit and Resources

This workshop is hosted by Honesty for Ohio Education in strong partnership with Moms Demand Action, OEA, OFT, Ohio PTA, Children’s Defense Fund Ohio, NAACP, and League of Women Voters Ohio.

Jul 27, 2022 06:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Sign up HERE.

Please share this SOS with your local school leaders, and encourage them to join the SAFE OHIO SCHOOLS network!