Ohio voucher school expansion bill is a mistake, Cleveland Plain Dealer 12/5/11

posted Dec 13, 2011, 1:18 PM by Bill Duncan
(Emphasis added in the editorial below.  It's worth looking at the 69 comments on this editorial.)


Ohio voucher school expansion bill is a mistake: editorial
Published: Monday, December 05, 2011, 7:10 PM
By The Plain Dealer Editorial Board 

More taxpayer money would flow to private schools under a voucher bill now being considered in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Rep. Matt Huffman, a Republican from Lima and school-choice advocate, may not intend to gouge holes in the budgets of public schools that are already on the ropes, but that's exactly what his voucher bill will do if the Ohio General Assembly passes it.

And that's the primary reason why House Bill 136, which has passed out of the House Education Committee, is bad for Ohio's public schools and bad for Ohio.

Maybe Huffman has an inkling of the troubled waters ahead because late last week he said he would "change the bill significantly" because of concerns that it would damage local public schools.

He ought to go further and just shelve it. Currently, vouchers are given primarily to low-income youngsters who would otherwise be locked in the state's worst schools. Liberating such youngsters from that system is critical.

The same can't be said for Huffman's generous voucher system, which would be open to families that earn up to $95,000 a year, even if their youngsters attend highly rated schools.

According to officials from the excellent-rated, property-tax-rich Fairview Park school district in Cuyahoga County, House Bill 136 could snatch as much as $5,700 out their budget for every private-school-bound child -- even though the district receives just $837 in state aid per student. The rest of the district's money comes from pinched taxpayers, who shouldn't be forced to subsidize private schools with their voted public-school tax dollars.

'Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not how to reform school finance in Ohio, nor is it the proper way to help parents struggling to pay for private schooling. They should not be bailed out at the expense of public schools that serve all residents -- or by means of the voted property-tax dollars that were intended solely for those schools.

Accountability is another issue that Huffman takes too lightly. He says he's not worried about unscrupulous private school operators suddenly awash in Ohioans' tax dollars. Everyone would be closely watched, he promises. But that hasn't happened with charter schools, where some operators have racked up millions of dollars in questionable expenses.

Now imagine trying to review the books of religious and independent private schools, which are naturally opaque institutions.

As the independent Center on Education Policy report on vouchers said last July, vouchers are not a "comprehensive solution" to states' educational problems.

Public schools are likely to continue to educate most children, as the CEP report also noted. Huffman and his supporters should not make it harder for successful schools to do the job.

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