Republican State Senator Introduces Bill Granting Educational Freedom to Ohio Students

An Ohio lawmaker introduced legislation on Tuesday to the General Assembly to expand schooling options for Ohio children.

Senate Bill (SB) 368, sponsored by State Senator Sandra O’Brien (R-Ashtabula), known as the Parental Education Freedom Act, would make each student in the state eligible for an Educational Choice (EdChoice) Scholarship to be used at a private school of their choice, or an increased tax credit for expenses related to homeschooling.

The bill serves a similar function to House Bill (HB) 290, sponsored by State Representatives Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) and Marilyn John (R-Richland County), known as the Backpack Bill, which currently awaits additional hearings in the Ohio House of Representatives. The Backpack Bill intends to “allow families to choose the option for all computed funding amounts associated with the student’s education to follow them to the schools they attend.”

Currently, Ohio students at or below 250% of the federal poverty level or who attend a failing school are eligible for an EdChoice scholarship awarded by the Ohio Department of Education.

Although the two bills slightly differ in their approach, both accomplish empowering parents to be the primary decision-makers regarding where and what type of education their children receive. The EdChoice Scholarships provided by SB 368 amount to $5,500 for Grades K-8 and $7,500 for Grades 9-12. The state tax credit for homeschooling expenses would be raised to $2,000.

“Sen. O’Brien has taken a bold step on behalf of Ohio’s children This legislation recognizes the rightful place that parents have in their children’s lives. When the state grants parents the opportunity to determine the type of education that best fits their children, every student in the state wins because every school becomes more accountable to the parents and students they serve,” Executive Director of the Ohio Christian Education Network Troy McIntosh said.

According to the Center for Christian Virtue (CCV), “research consistently demonstrates the benefits of legislation that offers increased educational freedom, including higher satisfaction rates and greater educational attainment in later years for participants, as well as improved academic performance among those who remain in public schools. In addition, polling has consistently shown that 3 out of 4 parents across the country favor this type of funding model, in which the educational funding follows the children to the school of his or her choice.”

The Buckeye Institute Research Fellow Greg Lawson commented on the introduction of Ohio SB 368, saying that this is exactly the type of new reform parents need to put students first so they can be successful.

“Putting students first has never been more important. With students’ future success, and the state’s long-term economic prosperity, at stake, Ohio policymakers must move forward by ensuring our children have access to flexible education options that best meet their personal needs. Senate Bill 368 represents exactly the type of innovative reform parents need in order to put students first and offer them a better chance to succeed. The Buckeye Institute and our coalition partners in the school choice movement have worked tirelessly to ensure that all students in Ohio have access to the tools they need to excel educationally and in life, and we could not be happier that this bill implements our longstanding policy recommendation,” Lawson said.

The bill has not gained opposition to date.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Sandra O’Brien” by The Ohio Senate. Background Photo “Classroom” by Wokandapix.

 

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