One thing continues to get overlooked as public school districts across Ohio fight to limit EdChoice scholarships. The demand for choice is clearly there, otherwise, parents would not be lining up to take advantage of voucher programs.
The Ohio Legislature must not lose focus of this during its ongoing discussions about how EdChoice expansion will be delivered. We fear that may be the case with Speaker of the House Larry Householder.
Last week during an Ohio Legislative Forum hosted by the Associated Press, Householder reiterated his belief the EdChoice program should be driven solely by a family’s income.
"A performance-based system is made for people to fail," Householder said. "The grade cards are making our kids look stupid. People from outside don’t want to move here because our education system looks bad." He also mentioned complaints he’s heard from school officials about teachers being forced to teach to the test.
On Feb. 5, Householder took action. He submitted a House plan where scholarships would be based only on family income in the future, not school performance.
We don’t buy it, and neither should you.
It is really quite simple when you get past all the bickering.
First, parents of all income levels should be able to select the school they feel is best for their children. And second, a school’s performance most definitely should be measured, although how that’s done needs a deeper look. Whatever the case, Ohio should never apologize for having high education standards — and that’s what the House plan essentially does. It takes accountability off the table.
It may not matter anyway.
Householder made a mess of things with his refusal two weeks ago to bring the House back into session to work on a compromise with the Senate before the next day’s Feb. 1 deadline hit.
Instead, he effectively forced the Senate to agree to delay the implementation of the program for 60 days so the two legislative bodies had more time to work out concerns. In doing so, Householder ignored warnings that the delay in implementing EdChoice expansion might not survive a legal challenge.
Now we’ll find out.
School voucher advocates sued the state last week, asking the Supreme Court to throw out the House-Senate deal. They claim the delay harms Ohio children and families and "impacts hundreds of Ohio’s public and private schools." The group asked the high court to order the state "to immediately begin accepting, processing, and awarding EdChoice Scholarship applications" as previously agreed upon.
Should they win, the original Feb. 1 deadline would be back in place. That would see students in more than 1,200 schools becoming eligible for scholarships, which originally initiated the outcry from public school officials whose districts stood to lose funding.
Two weeks ago, the Senate passed a plan initiated by Matt Huffman of Lima that would cut the number of public schools affected from 1,200 to 425. The plan was based on performance, as it should be. We urge the Senate to remain firm on that platform.
We also agree with Huffman and state Sen. Sandra Williams on another point. The issue of EdChoice has become a class problem. Williams, a Cleveland Democrat, put it bluntly when she chastised legislators for ignoring the voucher debate for the last 15 years since it only affected urban areas, but now care about the issue since voucher eligibility has touched affluent suburbs and small towns.
With the spotlight now shining on EdChoice Expansion, it is the Legislature’s duty to provide a rigorous defense of school choice as it increasingly comes under attack. As stated on The Ohio Department of Education website, "Ensuring each child is challenged, prepared and empowered for his or her future starts with providing opportunities to meet the needs of each child across the state."
Most areas of Ohio are fortunate to have a wide range of educational opportunities in which to choose. Not only are there open enrollment options offered by public schools, but there are private schools, parochial schools, magnet schools, vocational schools, charter schools and a strong home-schooling network.
The Ed Choice expansion program is only a threat to those who fear change and freedom of choice.
— The Lima News