Archives for category: Ohio

Stephen Dyer of Innovation Ohio is a former legislator and is currently the most astute analyst of the legislature’s efforts to undermine public education.

In this post, he describes the legislature’s current approach to vouchers.

He writes:

Yesterday, Ohio’s legislature passed their COVID-19 emergency package. And while there were some much needed and positive things in it (no standardized tests this year, no report cards), the bill also settled the contentious debate over what to do with next year’s EdChoice perofrmance-based voucher program.

A bit of background. Next year, due to legislative changes, 1,227 school buildings would have been labeled by the state as “failing”. Families with students in those buildings could therefore receive publicly subsidized private school tuition vouchers to leave these schools. The problem for districts is the way this program is funded, the state removes state revenue meant for the students in the districts and instead provides a private tuition subsidy — an amount that on average is abot $1,300 more per pupil than the student would have received from the state if he or she had remained in the school district. This forces many districts to use local revenue to make up the difference.

Also, it is obvious that more than 1/3 of Ohio school buildings are not “failing” students, as the current 1,227 building calculation would conclude. And legislators on all sides of the aisle agreed that the state report card that made this determination is fatally flawed.

However, families were gearing up by Feb. 1 to request vouchers for next school year based on the expanded school building list. The legislature put off that deadline to April 1 and included $10 million in state funding to help offset the cost of increased vouchers. They were hoping to hash out a plan to address this issue before that date.

Then COVID-19 hit and everything changed.

The solution included in yesterday’s bill was essentially freezing the number of buildings at this year’s 500+ buildings, and limiting new vouchers to siblings of current recipients and incoming kindergarten students, as well as any 8th graders who want to take the voucher in high school.

But it’s all based on this current school year’s building list — which is still about double the amount of the 2018-2019 school year, but is far fewer than the 1,227 it could have been.

This solution also did not include the $10 million state infusion to help districts cope with the increase in vouchers.

So the immediate question became: Will this “freeze” really be a cost-neutral freeze on the program? Or do we still need an infusion of state cash to offset new vouchers?

Looking at the data, it appears we could be looking at an increase in voucher funding next year, but it could also be cost neutral. It all depends on how the math works out.

According to the latest state funding printouts, there are currently 3,264 kindergarten voucher students. In addition, there are an average of 2,324 voucher students in 12th grade this year.

The kindergarten students cost $4,650 per year. The 2,324 12th graders cost $6,000 a year.

When advocates of vouchers assert that all children should have the “same choices” as rich people, they are lying. The private schools that Trump, Gates, and others of their wealth choose do not charge $6,000 a year. They charge $30,000-$60,000 a year.

Ohio is offering a subsidy to religious schools, including to children who have never attended a public schools. These schools do not necessarily require that teachers are certified. The education they offer is typically inferior to public education.

Ninety percent of the children of Ohio choose to attend public schools. Their legislators ignore them.

James Hohmann writes today in Washington Post that Ohio Governor DeWine should pay attention to history: Abraham Lincoln did not cancel the elections of 1864.

”Abraham Lincoln rejected calls to postpone the 1864 election amid the Civil War, even though his reelection remained very much in doubt until the capture of Atlanta that September. “If the rebellion could force us to forgo or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us,” the 16th president reasoned.

”To be sure, Lincoln was not facing a global pandemic with a highly contagious novel coronavirus that epidemiologists fear could kill more than a million Americans if not quickly contained. Officials reported 18 new deaths across the United States on Monday, bringing the nationwide total to 85, with more than 4,450 cases now confirmed in the country and the real number thought to be far higher because of problems distributing the test.

”But Lincoln was fending off an existential threat to the country’s survival. And his principle that the elections must go on has guided generations of leaders facing crises. During the influenza pandemic a century ago, for instance, local election officials across the country chose not to postpone voting in primaries during the 1918 midterms.

”On Monday night in Ohio, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye rejected a temporary restraining order supported by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) to postpone the state’s primary until June. He warned that rescheduling the election would “set a terrible precedent.” The judge explained during a court hearing that “there are too many factors to balance in this uncharted territory.”

“That didn’t deter DeWine. A few hours later, his director of public health ordered polls closed on account of a statewide emergency. “During this time when we face an unprecedented public health crisis, to conduct an election [Tuesday] would force poll workers and voters to place themselves at an unacceptable health risk of contracting coronavirus,” the governor tweeted. Overnight, without issuing an opinion, the Ohio Supreme Court denied a legal challenge to the order to postpone the primary. This means that there will not be in-person voting in the Buckeye State today.

“The only thing more important than a free and fair election is the health and safety of Ohioans,” DeWine said in a joint statement overnight with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R). “Logistically, under these extraordinary circumstances, it simply isn’t possible to hold an election tomorrow that will be considered legitimate by Ohioans….”

“Even as President Trump showed a new seriousness about the outbreak, he told reporters that he didn’t think it was necessary for Ohio to delay its primary. “I think postponing elections is not a very good thing,” said Trump. “They have lots of room in a lot of the electoral places. … I think postponing is unnecessary.” He added that he defers to individual states.

“For the foreseeable future, debates over delaying primaries and elections are poised to become normal. “In Arizona, the Maricopa County Elections Department closed 78 polling locations, citing widespread shortages of cleaning supplies. Now, rather than being limited to their local precinct, voters may cast ballots at any of 151 geographically dispersed polling centers,” Amy Gardner, Elise Viebeck and Isaac Stanley-Becker report. “Poll-worker shortages in Florida prompted one election official in Pasco County, north of Tampa, to draft sheriff’s deputies, school district workers and county employees to fill in.”

Suspicion, fear, concern: Is Ohio setting a precedent for the national election of 2020?

Governor Mike DeWine acted decisively to close all schools in Ohio, starting at the end of the day Monday. Some schools will close sooner.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday that all Ohio schools will have a three-week spring break – starting next week – as precaution against the spread of coronavirus.

Ohio K-12 schools will be closed from 3:30 p.m. Monday through at least April 3, DeWine said. The order applies to public, private and charter schools.

“We have to do this if we are going to slow this down,” DeWine said during his daily coronavirus update.

DeWine acknowledged that unless a child has a medical problem, the risk of death for a child from COVID-19 is not very high. But he noted that children can be carriers.

“We are announcing today that children in the state will have an extended spring date. The spring break will be the duration of three weeks and we will review it at the end of that,” DeWine said.

This action for K-12 schools is in addition to suspension of in-person classes announced earlier by colleges and universities….

DeWine said he understood there were many unanswered questions.

“We’re going to try to use common sense. We are all in this together. No one is going to impose a crazy regulation that doesn’t make sense,” the governor said. “This is a crisis.”

As for the details, such as normally mandated tests, DeWine said: “If we can’t have testing this year, we will not have testing this year. The world will not come to an end.”

I tweeted last night: “We need more coronavirus tests, and less standardized testing.” #priorities

Governor DeWine has his priorities right.

Bill Phillis is a retired state official in Ohio. As founder of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy, he follows the money. And he finds that nearly $15 billion has been diverted from public schools to charters and vouchers.

Educational opportunities lost in public school districts due to the state’s confiscation of $14,673,524,789 for the charter and voucher whims

Traditional public school students have been denied massive educational opportunities by the state’s confiscation of $14.7 billion from school districts. Much of the $14.7 billion has been wasted; hence, all students are being shortchanged.

The state’s constitutional responsibility is to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools. Instead of fixing the system as directed by the Ohio Supreme Court, the state has frittered away $14.7 billion of school district funds.

The munificently-funded Thomas B. Fordham Institute, based in D.C., controls Educatuon Policy, graduation requirements, curriculum, and testing in Ohio. Mr. Fordham, for whom the institute is named, had no known interest in education, but his namesake is part of the rightwing ALEC nexus, where contempt for public schools, hatred for unions, contempt for gun control and environmental regulation are reflexive.

Laura Chapman, who lives in Ohio, writes:


This numbers game is routinely pushed by the Ohio arm of Thomas B. Fordham Institute/Foundation. Oped’s written by employees at criticize the Fordham routinely criticize teacher unions for pointing out the debilitating affects of poverty on students. In a typical rhetorical move, the Fordham “expert” will find one exceptional school with an “A” rating of the state report card rigged to ensure few schools are rated A. Then when you read in detail, you will see that the most exceptional thing about this school is really rare. The same principal has been there for 18 years, lives in the community, and has an uncommon level of trust from her community, the teachers, and students. Test scores were a byproduct of that not the aim of her work as an educator.

In Ohio, the writer most responsible for this misleading journalism and “research” is Aaron Churchill, the Institute’s Ohio Research Director. The Institute says this: Since 2012, Aaron has worked on “strengthening” Ohio policy on standardized testing and accountability, school evaluation, school funding, educational markets, human-resource policies and charter school sponsorship. He writes for the Fordham’s blog, the Ohio Gadfly Daily and contributes op-eds to the Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Dayton Daily News, and Cincinnati Enquirer. Aaron previously worked for Junior Achievement.”

He has not an ounce of documented experience in teaching or studies of education as an undergraduate or graduate student. He gets a free pass on almost everything he submits to the Columbus Dispatch, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Dayton Daily News, and Cincinnati Enquirer. These local newspapers are shrinking and have few if any staff available for questioning this “throughput” of misleading but ready to post news.

Jan Resseger describes the chaos and disruption caused by Ohio’s choice-made Legislature.  

The Ohio House is trying to curb the overreach of the expanded voucher program, which unexpectedly swooped up some white, affluent schools. The hardline Senate, lobbied by generous campaign donor Betsy DeVos, will hang tough to give out as many vouchers as possible, even if it bankrupts entire school districts.

I wonder why no one has put a referendum on the state ballot about whether the public wants vouchers to pay the tuition of religious school students.

At the end of Jan’s excellent article, there is a nugget of good news.

The failed state takeovers are under fire:

On Wednesday, the Ohio House passed another very welcome emergency amendment to Senate Bill 89: to end Ohio’s state school district takeovers established without adequate public hearings in the summer of 2015. The House amendment would end the state takeovers and the top-down, appointed Academic Distress Commissions in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland. Elected representatives from Lorain and Youngstown spoke passionately for the need to restore local control and community engagement in their school districts, which were thrust into chaos in recent years by their Academic Distress Commissions and their appointed CEOs.


The Ohio Legislature has created a royal mess in its rush to give vouchers to almost every student in the state. They can’t decide whether the vouchers will be paid by taking money away from the state’s underfunded public schools and how to decide which children get public money to attend private schools.

Jan Resseger untangles the mess in her lucid way. 

Read the whole post, not just this excerpt for her clear analysis.

Rancor and confusion over the issue of EdChoice private school tuition vouchers filled the chambers of the Ohio Legislature all last week. In anticipation of the February 1st date when families were supposed to start signing up for vouchers for next school year, the Legislature set out to address problems with Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program, problems created when changes were surreptitiously inserted into the state budget last summer during last minute hearings by the conference committee.

Last week’s negotiations about the voucher program broke down entirely on Thursday night and Friday, however.  The Legislature has now delayed the EdChoice voucher sign-up process; it has given itself two months to address big problems in the program. Here is how the Plain Dealer‘s Patrick O’Donnell describes the chaos in Ohio:

Ohio’s controversy over tuition vouchers sparked anger, political posturing and suspense in Columbus this week, with no clarity for anyone. That won’t come for two months.  Parents won’t know until April if their children are eligible to receive a tax-funded voucher toward private school tuition.  Vouchers applications that were supposed to start Saturday won’t. Private schools won’t know if they will receive any state tuition help. And about 1,200 public schools across Ohio don’t know if they will remain on a state list of underperforming schools which lets students use vouchers that are then billed to the district. Even state legislators can’t say what form Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program will take for the fall. After the Ohio House and Senate proposed drastic changes this week to rework which students would be eligible for vouchers and who would pay for them, negotiations fizzled. By Friday, with Saturday’s start of the voucher application looming, both houses voted to delay any applications until April 1, while they search for a compromise.”

One interesting detail about the huge fight in Columbus about school choice right now is that it is taking place among Ohio Republicans. The Ohio Senate has a Republican supermajority; the Ohio House recently dropped from a supermajority to a 61.6 percent Republican majority. Democrats are surely deeply involved, however. Ohio Democrats reliably support the institution of public education in this fight: They insist that public tax dollars ought to be spent on Ohio’s public schools, which everybody agrees remain underfunded.

Today’s debate, however, is about more than whether we ought to have vouchers. After all today in Ohio, we do have vouchers—five kinds of vouchers. There is the original 1996 Cleveland Scholarship program. Additionally there are now four statewide Ohio voucher programs:  Peterson Special Education vouchers, Autism vouchers, EdChoice vouchers, and a newer program, EdChoice Expansion vouchers.

As I listened to the January 31, 2020 Friday afternoon hearing in the Ohio Senate, what I heard were all sorts of arguments about a number of important policy questions. The debate was confusing, just as the whole week’s policy debate in and outside the legislature has been complicated and confounding. Legislators and advocates across Ohio are arguing about four different questions, but the debate has grown increasingly chaotic as people conflate the questions, their answers to the questions, and the intersection of the issues involved.  Here are the four questions:

  • Should Ohio pay for private school tuition vouchers out of the state’s education budget when the state should be spending the money to support what everyone agrees are underfunded public schools?
  • As far as the operation of the EdChoice voucher program goes, should qualification for the vouchers be based on the grades Ohio has been assigning to schools on the state report cards or should it be based on family income alone?
  • As far as the operation of the EdChoice voucher program goes, should the state fully fund the vouchers or should the state be deducting the price of the vouchers from local school district budgets?
  • As far as the operation of the EdChoice voucher program goes, what should the state do to hold harmless the school districts which lost millions of dollars during the current school year when an unexpected and explosive number of students already in private schools claimed vouchers which legislators had surreptitiously—in a brand new state budget—permitted them to claim through a local school district deduction?

Read on to learn Jan’s answers.

Peter Greene believes that Ohio is trying to be like Florida, hoping to expand  vouchers to every student as if every public school in Ohio is rotten. Once the voucher money is approved, the state doesn’t care about the quality of education. Ohio already has a low-performing charter industry, one of the worst in the nation, why not give vouchers to attend religious schools that use the Bible as their science textbook? I wish some entity in Ohio would place a referendum on the ballot and ask voters if they want to defund their public schools in order to expand public funding of vouchers and charters.

He writes:

You will recall that Ohio school districts are facing an explosion in costs as they enter the next phase of the privatization program. Phase One is familiar to most of us–you start out with vouchers and charters just for the poor families who have to “escape failing public schools.” Phase Two is the part where you expand the program so that it covers everybody.

Well, Ohio screwed up its Phase Two. Basically, they expanded the parameters of their privatization so quickly that lots of people noticed. The number of eligible school districts skyrocketed, and that brought attention to a crazy little quirk in their system, as noted by this report from a Cleveland tv station:

We analyzed data from the eight Northeast Ohio school districts that paid more than $1 million in EdChoice vouchers to area private schools during the 2019-2020 school year as part of the program.

Those districts include Akron, Canton, Cleveland Heights-University Heights, Euclid, Garfield Heights, Lorain, Maple Heights, and Parma City Schools.

Out of the 6,319 students who received EdChoice vouchers, we found 4,013, or 63.5%, were never enrolled in the district left footing the bill for their vouchers.

Yep. That means that at the moment this kicks in, the district loses a buttload of money, while its costs are reduced by $0.00. This means that either the local school district cuts programs and services, or it raises taxes to replace the lost revenue, effectively calling on the taxpayers to help fund private school tuition for some students. I wonder how many legislators who helped engineer this are also opposed to plans from Democratic candidates to provide free college tuition at taxpayer expense?

The legislature has been running around frantically trying to– well, not head this off so much as slow it down just enough to reduce the number of angry phone calls their staff has to take. Nobody seems to be saying “This is a mistake” so much as they’e saying “Doing this so fast that people really notice is a mistake.” Someone cranked the heat on the frogs too fast. Meanwhile, this weekend was their last chance to get this fixed before next year’s voucher enrollment opens, and they have decided to punt because everyone is getting cranky.

Is this at least going to help some poor folks? Well, the proposal is to up the cap to 300% of poverty level. That’s $78,600 for a family of four. So there’s that.

Ohio’s legislature is determined to wreak havoc on the public schools that most students attend. Vote these vandals out of office!


Steve Dyer: Ohio’s school voucher crisis in four charts
School choicers won’t be satisfied until each school age kid automatically receives a voucher to be cashed in at any place of “learning” even if it is at Uncle Joe’s Bar and Backroom School.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding ||

Bill Phillis of the Ohio Coalition for Adequacy and Equity writes:


Accel owner Ron Packard is in a tizzy because some of his charters did not qualify for Ohio’s charter bonus fund
Patrick O’Donnell’s January 11 Cleveland Plain Dealer article—State avoids “loophole” for charter school money, rejects applications for millions—sheds light on yet another charter loopholes embedded in Ohio law.
This loophole provides that charter bonus money appropriated for “high performing” charters can be distributed to “low performing” charters solely because their operator ran schools in other states that had received a federal grant.
For-profit Accel charter chain operator Ron Packard, applied for bonus funds for dozens of schools that didn’t qualify for charter bonus funds; however, he anticipated funding on the basis that an Accel charter in Colorado Springs received a federal charter school expansion grant a few years ago. But the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) rejected the Accel application, citing the Ohio Accel operation fails to connect with those in Colorado. (Who do you suppose got that out-of-state loophole inserted into Ohio Law?)
Ron Packard left K12 Inc. a few years ago as a $5 million per year executive to start Accel. He has a gang of charters in Ohio. Is there any doubt why Mr. Packard is in the education business?
The Gulen charter school chain also applied for bonus money on the basis of the out-of-state provision. Fortunately ODE rejected it on the same basis as the Accel rejection.
William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding ||