by J.D. Davidson
A coalition of about 70 public school districts in Ohio plans to file a lawsuit challenging the state’s use of public money to fund private schools, saying Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program pulls money from public schools and limits the state’s ability to provide fair funding for those schools.
The lawsuit, which the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding Executive Director Bill Phillis said will be filed soon, calls for the end of the EdChoice program.
“The bottom line of all this is these alternatives, including vouchers, is diminishing the state’s ability to meet its obligations,” said Phillis, who said the state has removed around $25 billion from K-12 public education in favor of vouchers or other private school options.
EdChoice allows students from low-performing public schools to attend private, charter or parochial schools using public tax dollars. Lawmakers expanded the program this year from $6,000 per high school student to $7,500. The cap on the number of eligible students was eliminated, and a separate fund for vouchers was created, so public schools no longer would have to pass along the money per student.
Phillis said planning for the lawsuit began about 18 months ago, before the state’s current budget was enacted in July. It expanded opportunities for parents through tuition tax credits and educational savings accounts.
“That was long before this outrageous expansion of these vouchers and outrageous voucher schemes like tuition tax credits and educational savings accounts. These things weren’t vetted,” Phillis said.
School-choice proponents such as the Buckeye Institute, a Columbus-based think tank, called the additions bold and significant.
“Governor Mike DeWine has signed a budget that expands existing school choice options and creates Ohio’s first-ever education savings account program helping parents afford desperately-needed resources and giving them the flexibility necessary to improve their children’s educational outcomes,” said Rea Hederman Jr., executive director of the Economic Research Center at the Buckeye Institute and vice president of policy. “These bold reforms are some of the most significant that Ohio’s families have seen in a decade.”
The Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding began in 1991 and had a membership of 515 public school districts at one time. Current membership stands at more than 200, Phillis said.
Districts and vocational schools pay a 50-cents-per-pupil membership fee. Around 1.7 million students are in Ohio’s 611 public school districts. The average number of students per district is 2,782, and the average membership fee is around $1,400.
– – –
J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is a regional editor for The Center Square.