To the editor:

In 1992, State Rep. William Batchelder was dabbling with vouchers. Batchelder was a prime mover in the Cleveland voucher plan crafted by the George Voinovich administration.

Later, as speaker of the House, he carried the water for the public school choice community. After leaving the speaker's office, by way of the Batchelder Company, his advocacy for charters is still alive and well.

His company is currently providing support for ECOT's lobbying and litigation efforts. Quite a legacy.

In a 1992 letter, Homer Smith, then superintendent of Medina County Office of Education, cautioned Batchelder about the hazards of vouchers. Some excerpts from Mr. Smith's letter:

"Once again, that term that all educators in the public schools hare to hear has reared its ugly. That term being 'voucher.'

"The Akron Beacon Journal on Jan. 21, 1992, carried an article titled 'Shopping for a School.' In this article, of course, they are advocating the voucher system and are discussing a plan proposed by our 'education governor' to set up a voucher system within some of the inner-city schools within the state of Ohio.

"Let's work on these problems first, and then if schools do not improve, we can look at stepping all over the constitutional provision which calls for the separation of church and state. I honestly and sincerely believe that there must be a separation of church and state if this country is to remain strong and this will not happen if public tax dollars flow to the private and parochial schools. I am just as concerned about the tax dollars flowing to private schools as I am to the parochial schools. I might add, just for a matter of clarification, that my own daughter did attend a parochial school. We were willing to pay that extra cost because we wanted something extra. Others should do the same."

Ohio has gone whole hog into that bottomless pit with a half dozen voucher programs. HB 200 and SB 85, both pending in the Legislature, would make vouchers available to three-quarters of Ohio school-age children.

Choice programs have been ruled constitutional in Ohio, but since state policy prefers choice over the public system and state funding for choice harms public school students, a constitutional challenge should be explored.

William L. Phillis
Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding