Education officials worry Ohio voucher expansion will come at expense of full public school funding

By: - February 2, 2023 5:00 am

COLUMBUS, OH — JANUARY 31: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine during the State of the State Address, Jan. 31, 2023, in the House Chamber at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

The education community in Ohio is encouraged by the governor’s support of public school funding, but see red flags when it comes to increased private school vouchers, warning that they hinder Ohio’s Full School Funding Plan.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s announced his planned budget asks on Wednesday during his State of the State address, including boosts to literacy programs, a $2,500 per child state tax deduction, and promotion of public school funding reform.

After DeWine’s speech, Senate President Matt Huffman spoke highly of the governor’s plans, though he believes the education overhaul Republicans have planned in Senate Bill 1 would implement plans faster.

“I think that if Senate Bill 1 is passed in its basic form, the governor is going to be able to execute on these things and do the reforms in a much more efficient way,” Huffman said.

Senate Bill 1 would rename the Department of Education as the Department of Education and Workforce, and place the leader of the department within the governor’s office. The leader of the bill, state Sen. Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin, also wants to see more focus on career tech and alternatives to traditional four-year degrees put on the same level as the rest of the state’s higher education.

Huffman said the current system only allows governors and legislators to act in a “reactive” way, not allowing for real change.

Democrats say the current system isn’t working either, but the solution for them is fully funding the public school system via the Fair School Funding plan.

DeWine mentioned the plan in his speech, saying it should be funded, but Democrats are unsure what Republicans’ plans are for the third year of the six-year phase-in designed in the plan. The plan has only been funded for two years so far, because Huffman refused to assign funding priorities to future general assemblies.

“Gov. DeWine’s proposal to extend FSFP funding is adequate, but Ohio’s kids, families and school communities need a permanent commitment to the funding equity required by Ohio’s constitution,” said Hannah Halbert, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement following the speech.

What Democrats and other public school advocates don’t want to see is further expansion of the EdChoice private school voucher program.

Unfortunately, many Republicans, the party holding the majority in both the House and Senate, have put their support behind “school choice,” meaning they’d like to see private schools as an option for more students.

DeWine himself gave his support to the idea as well, announcing that his proposed budget would expand eligibility for the voucher program to households at or below 400% of the federal poverty level.

“This investment will allow more families than ever to take advantage of this scholarship and find the best school for their children,” DeWine said on Tuesday.

The coalition All In For Ohio Kids, which includes the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio Education Association, Policy Matters Ohio and the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, agreed that they appreciated DeWine’s mention of the Fair School Funding Plan, but don’t see how the state can support other reforms at the same time as the needed public school funding changes.

“Legislators should also avoid competing funding obligations, such as expansion of private school vouchers or charter schools, that would hinder our ability to fully fund the public schools that 90% of Ohio students attend,” the coalition stated.

Policy Matters criticized criticized DeWine’s proposal for a $2,500 tax deduction as a “far cry from the successful federal expanded child tax credit that cut child poverty by 30% nationwide.”



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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.