Ohio has a thriving choice sector, but neither vouchers nor charters have ever been approved by voters.

Legislators know that the public–nearly 90% in public schools–would not support funding vouchers or charters and never has. So they find clever ways to establish choice programs and fund them without asking the voters’ opinions. Currently, as the post below shows, legislators have figured out how to force voters in Columbus to share a new tax levy for charters.

Why are supporters of choice so fearful of the democratic process. If people really are clamoring to leave public schools, why not allow them to vote on how public money is allocated?

Bill Phillis wrote the following explanation of how choice programs hitchhike in Ohio. Bill, now retired, was Deputy Commissioner of Education during a time when the government of the state was determined to improve education, not to privatize it. If you want to join his mailing list, you may contact him at ohioeanda@sbcglobal.net

Bill Phillis writes:

“FY2014-FY2015 State Budget: Choice programs hitchhike again

July 24, 2013

Charter schools came into Ohio law by hitchhiking on a budget bill-same is true of vouchers. Choice programs have never been enacted in Ohio as stand-alone legislation. State officials have historically inserted controversial proposals in budget bills that would not pass on their own merit. The Ohio Constitution (Article II, section 12d) requires that bills constitute a single subject but this provision is frequently violated, particularly when there is little or no political balance in government.

The new “universal” voucher program in HB 59 most likely would not have passed if it had been introduced separately. Remember HB 136-a “universal” voucher bill introduced in the 129th General Assembly? It was stopped amid public opposition. Over 400 boards of education passed resolutions of opposition to HB 136.

HB 167 (The Columbus Plan) is another example of choice hitchhiking. This enactment requires the Columbus Board of Education to put a levy on the ballot in November, the proceeds of which would be shared with charter schools. A Columbus school board member proposed that the levy proposal be bifurcated so as to allow Columbus School District residents to vote on the charter school funding piece separately-rather than hitchhiking on the Columbus District levy. The powers-that-be said “NO”, it is a package.

What is the problem with allowing Columbus school patrons to vote specifically on the charter school funding issue? The answer seems clear-it wouldn’t pass. Citizens should have the right to vote on each issue. Charter schools, unless sponsored by a school district, are not a part of the public common school system; thus, a local tax levy for charter schools should be a separate proposal. Local school district revenue is already shared with charter schools inasmuch as, on average, the per pupil charter school deductions are nearly twice the average state payments per pupil to school districts.

Citizens need to challenge the decisions of their elected representatives. The Columbus school board member should be commended for raising the issue of a separate vote.

William Phillis
Ohio E & A

Ohio E & A | 100 S. 3rd Street | Columbus | OH | 43215