Republican State Senator Sandra O’Brien (R-Ashtabula) has reintroduced the Parental Education Freedom Act. The measure 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.
O’Brien introduced this legislation during the lame-duck session last month as SB 368 however, the legislation did not progress before the start of the 135th General Assembly so she had to reintroduce it.
Currently, Ohio students at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level or who attend a failing school have the qualifications for an EdChoice scholarship awarded by the Ohio Department of Education.
SB 11 aims to empower parents to be the primary decision-makers regarding where and what type of education their children receive.
Under SB 11 the current EdChoice Scholarship Program would expand to all Ohio students for either a $5,500 scholarship (for grades K-8) or a $7,500 scholarship (for grades 9-12) to attend a private school. Families choosing to home school would be eligible for a non-refundable state tax credit of up to $2,000 for reimbursement of educational expenses for their children.
Public school leaders and advocates have continuously opposed the EdChoice program’s expansion, arguing that it will have a negative impact on them by cutting financing for the institutions that teach the great majority of Ohio’s kids.
“Expanding private school vouchers and increasing the homeschool tax credit will make it harder for legislators to meet their constitutional obligation to fully and fairly fund local public schools in Ohio,” Melissa Cropper, head of the Ohio Federation of Teachers said.
“Senator O’Brien has taken the bold step to empower every Ohio family with the ability to make educational decisions that are best for their children. The freedom this type of policy provides has the additional benefit of holding public schools accountable to parents by allowing families to take their state educational funding with them to the school of their choice,” Aaron Baer, President of the Center for Christian Virtue said.
Ohio’s scores on the recently released National Assessment of the Educational Progress (NAEP) reveal that only one-fourth of the pupils in the state were proficient in math, and less than one-third in reading. The results were considerably worse for students who attended schools in 2020 and 2021 that choose to forgo offering in-person education for protracted periods of time. In addition to that, the radical progressive philosophies on race, gender, and other issues that public schools throughout the state have adopted are in direct opposition to the strongly held values of many Ohio families.
According to Baer, research continually demonstrates that granting educational independence benefits all students.
“Ohio must no longer allow any student to be trapped in under performing and radically progressive schools that undermine parental rights and authority,” Baer said.
The Buckeye Institute also commended O’Brien’s “good work” reintroducing the legislation 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,” Buckeye Institute Research Fellow Greg Lawson said.
According to The Ohio Christian Education Network, SB 11 will enable families to choose from a wide range of possibilities and end the influence that a single government system has over students.
“We are very pleased that Sen. O’Brien has introduced SB 11 because we believe that every student and parent in the state deserves to make the most important decisions about their child’s education. This type of “backpack style” funding breaks the stranglehold that a single government system has on students and opens up an array of options for families to find the best fit for their children. Doing this brings the type of accountability to public schools that so many have been asking for simply by empowering parents and students rather than a system,” The Ohio Christian Education Network Executive Director Troy McIntosh told The Ohio Star.
– – –
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.