Expansion of School Choice Measures in HB110 (State Budget Bill) School choice expansion has soared and mushroomed since the beginning of the 134th General Assembly. School Choice has spiraled out of control. HB110 has set the stage for accelerated privatization of public education. During the State budget process, HB290 was introduced to influence the budget-making process. One of the sponsors of HB290 indicated the intent of the bill was to provide education funding to individuals, rather than the system. In concert with that stated intent, HB110 is filled with measures that, when fully developed, will vastly diminish funding and support that is due the public common school system required by the Constitution. All school choice programs enacted by the Ohio legislature began as small pilot programs. In most cases, these programs were subject to very little debate or public input before enactment. Most of the measures were slipped into budget bills by the Conference Committee, not having been debated by either the House or Senate. Following the same pattern, HB110 is filled with school choice expansion initiatives. Some of the most obvious school choice expansion initiatives in HB110 are identified below:
Voucher Schemes (vouchers, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts and voucher expansion of eligibility and funding)
- Increase in high school voucher amount to $7500 and elementary school voucher amount to $5500 (in the range of a 25% increase)
- Removal of caps on EdChoice vouchers
- Tuition tax credit in the amount of $750 for contributions made to a non-profit voucher awarding organization (a new creature authorized by HB110)
- Tax credit of up to $250 for homeschooling expenses
- A tax credit for tuition for non-chartered, non-tax (unregulated) private school
- Education savings account (ESA) that provides $500 per year to pay for after school or enrichment programs of parents’ choice
- Eligibility for vouchers expanded to include siblings of those enrolled in private schools, foster children and those no longer eligible for Jon Peterson or autism vouchers
- Voucher students, pursuant to HB110, are funded directly from the school foundation program traditionally reserved for public school districts. The foundation program for high school voucher students is about $1500 more than for school district students.
Charter School Expansion
- Under HB110, charter schools can be located in any school district in Ohio
- The so called Quality Charter School Program was nearly doubled from $30 million to $54 million annually
- Charter facility funding was increased from $250 per pupil to $500
- School districts may be forced to lease or sell school buildings that are used 60% less than capacity for academic programs to charter schools
- Charter school students, pursuant to HB110, are funded directly from the school foundation program traditionally reserved for public school districts
HB110 sets the stage for massive expansion of school choice programs by the next General Assembly.
The new voucher schemes enacted in HB110 seem innocuous to the operation of the public school system. The tuition tax credits and the education savings accounts are set at a low level. That is the script in the playbook of the privatizers—get a foot-in-the-door and then expand exponentially.
Vouchers started in Ohio with a price tag of a very few million dollars. The fiscal year 2021 price tag was $350 million. Charters started at less than $11 million, now charters cost Ohio taxpayers about $1 billion annually.
The school choice lobby is no doubt salivating over the potential in the next Ohio budget for full vouchers for homeschoolers and vouchers for all current tuition payers for private school. The tuition tax credit and education savings accounts will expand exponentially in future budget bills.
The goal of the school choice folks is to fund students, not the system required by the Ohio Constitution. They, along with State officials allied with them have no regard for the constitutional mandate of a thorough and efficient system of common schools. The Constitution is clear. The State is responsible for securing a thorough and efficient system. Vouchers and charters do not fit the mold of the common public school. The State is in violation of the Ohio Constitution regarding public schools. The school choice options, beginning with EdChoice vouchers, will be tested in court.
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