Bill Phillis was Deputy Commissioner for the State of Ohio. He is now retired. He is a master of school finance and is a principled believer in public education, free and open to all. He founded the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy to track school finance and equitable practices. He has followed the theft of public money by charter frauds in Ohio for many years.

He writes here:

Betsy DeVos: School choice is a fundamental right

“The common school system in America was established as a public good, not a private consumable. The primary purpose of the system is to create and maintain a democratic society governed by public policies that promote an equitable social order. Horace Mann, the father of the great American common school said that education is the great equalizer of the conditions of men. He promoted public education as the balance wheel of social machinery.

“The constitutional provisions for education in nearly every state mandate and enable the establishment and maintenance of the common school system.

“Enactment of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) at the beginning of the 21st century was an affront to these state constitutional provisions. Congress, in defiance of the states’ responsibility for public education, in a frenzied effort to “fix” perceived problems in the system, passed NCLB. This legislation usurped the rights of states regarding education and local decision-making prerogatives. NCLB intruded into every classroom in America. The education community, being loyal soldiers, implemented the provisions knowing full well the mandates of the legislation were not in the best interest of students. NCLB has not improved student achievement and has diminished many critical educational opportunities. It, by design, has opened the choice-gate incredibly wide.

“In 2015, Congress modified NCLB with passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA.) But ESSA is of little help in repairing the damage caused by NCLB.

“Now comes Betsy DeVos. Education Secretary DeVos, in a major public address, recently stated there is no such thing as society. Further she said in the same address, it isn’t about school systems-it is about individual students, parents and families. In another address to the Brookings Institution, DeVos pronounced that school choice is a “fundamental right.” She seems to have no understanding of or appreciation for the purpose of the public school system.

“The school choice movement of this era is the antithesis of the common school movement of the 1800s. It challenges Ohio’s constitutional provision for a thorough and efficient system of common schools. Vouchers, tuition tax credits, education savings accounts, academic distress commissions (Youngstown Plan) and charter schools, all set aside the education provisions of the Ohio Constitution.

“School children have a constitutional right to participate in the Ohio common school system. Parents have a right to opt their children out of the common system but the state has no obligation to pay for their choice.

“DeVos may have a point that parents have a fundamental right to choose an alternative to the constitutionally-mandated common school; however, parents do not have the right to tax funds to pay for that choice.”

William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding | 614.228.6540 ||

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