Public school advocates worry DeWine's budget will take money away from students
Groups that advocate for public schools are leery of Gov. Mike DeWine’s newly-proposed budget for K-12 schools because it includes an expansion of the state’s income-based EdChoice Scholarship Program.
In a joint letter, leaders from the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Policy Matters Ohio, Ohio Federation of Teachers, and Ohio Education Association said lawmakers should avoid an expansion of private school vouchers or charter schools.
The groups said an expansion "would hinder our ability to fully fund the public schools that 90% of Ohio students attend."
The use of state vouchers to attend private schools through the EdChoice program is currently limited to low-income families.
Molly Shack, Ohio Organizing Collaborative co-executive director, said DeWine’s proposed budget would raise the threshold for participation in the EdChoice program to 400% above the poverty line. That could make it so a family of four earning $120,000 a year could participate.
“That’s a big concern that, rather than funding our public schools, we are trying to move resources into our private schools and charters," Shack said.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) has pushed for the expansion of vouchers for years.
He said traditional public schools are fully funded in DeWine's budget. He added that the governor's plan includes money for the newly-passed Cupp-Patterson school funding formula, also known as the Fair School Funding Plan.
But Huffman said increased use of publicly-funded vouchers for private schools would actually benefit public schools in the long run.
“As vouchers are expanded, there’s more money available for public schools. The basic math here is that it costs about $13,000 to $14,000 on average to educate a student in a public school in the state of Ohio. Obviously, that's different in different places and in some of the districts, it's over $20,000. In some of the districts, it is $10,000 or $11,000. But taking a $7,500 voucher, which is a high school voucher or $5,500 for a grade school, is always going to save the taxpayers money," Huffman explained.
Public school advocates push back by arguing that schools would face additional challenges if the voucher expansion leads to a decline in enrollment.
Huffman said because it costs less to educate a child at private schools compared to public schools and tax dollars are saved, there would be more money available for public schools.