To the editor:

Direct-funded private school programs and School Choice programs in Ohio started as pilot programs that had insignificant effect on public school district enrollment and finances. These schemes have escalated exponentially and are on track for tax-support for each student to shop for elementary and secondary education.

An aggressive minority (many of which are very wealthy) has been successful in convincing the public that just any nonpublic education operation is a better fit for students than the public common school system. Hence, the expansion of alternatives to the traditional public system, notwithstanding its constitutional moorings, has eroded the traditional public system. The erosion has been slow, but relentless; however, the pace of school choice eligibility provisions and funding levels have quickened. The state budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 provides the platform for rapid escalation of eligibility and funding amounts.

A few state budget examples illustrate the point. The so called Quality Charter School Program was nearly doubled from $30 million to $54 million annually. Charter school facility funding was doubled from $250 per pupil to $500 per pupil. Charters are no longer restricted to certain districts. Districts will now be required to sell or lease “underutilized” buildings to charters.

The EdChoice vouchers were increased substantially—at the high school level by 25%. There are now no caps on the number of EdChoice vouchers. Eligibility for EdChoice vouchers extended to foster care students, siblings of current voucher students, and any incoming ninth-graders.

Some brand new voucher schemes in the form of tax credits were slithered into the new state budget. Ohioans are now eligible for a tax credit (a voucher cousin) for up to $750 for contributions to a nonprofit voucher awarding organization (a new creature authorized by the new budget). A tax credit of up to $250 for homeschooling expenses is now in effect. Tax credits are now available to parents who send their children to non-chartered, non-tax (unregulated) private schools. (This gives a tax break to those who choose to send kids to an unregulated private school).

Still another voucher-type scheme is the education savings account (ESA) that provides $500 per year to pay for after school programs or enrichment programs of parents’ choice.

These new Choice programs were enacted with low cost amounts. They are foot-in-the-door programs that will be funded at higher levels in future State budgets.

The privatizers whittle away at the public common school system, one shaving at a time. They may be close to the tipping point, wherein they will demand all the tax money set aside for education.

The fiscal years 2022 and 2023 state budget sets the stage for total privatization of education in Ohio.

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