Education Reform Ohio Vouchers

Peter Greene: Ohio Plunges Districts into the Voucher Disaster

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Peter Greene writes here about Ohio’s headlong expansion of vouchers for private and religious schools. 

The enlarged voucher program will hurt the budgets of some of the state’s best school districts.

The only evaluation of Ohio’s voucher program, carried out at the behest of the rightwing Thomas B. Fordham Institute, determined that kids who took the vouchers actually lost ground academically as compared to their public school peers.

No matter.

Remember when voucher promoters claimed that they wanted to “save poor kids from failing schools”? No more. Now they want to give public money to kids who never attended a public school, ever.

Ohio has quietly been working to become the Florida of North when it comes to education, with an assortment of school choice programs that are like a cancerous growth gnawing away at the health of the public school system. But now, due to a collection of lawmaker choices, the privatized schools of Ohio have dramatically advanced their bid to consume public education. And somer lawmakers have noticed.

“Hey! I would like to speak to a manager!”

Ohio has followed the basic template for implementing choice– get your choicey foot in the door with some modest programs that are strictly to “save” poor, underserved students from “failing” schools. Then slowly expand. Only, somehow, somebody screwed up the “slowly” part.

Next year, the number of “failing” districts in Ohio will jump from 500 to 1,200. The voucher bill for many districts will jump by millions of dollars. (If you like a good graphic, here’s a tweet that lays it out.) And the list of schools whose residents are eligible for the EdChoice program include districts that are some of the top-rated districts in the state.

It might not matter that top districts are now voucher-eligible– after all, parents can just say, “Why go to private school when my public school is great?”– except for one other wrinkle. Next year ends the requirement that voucher students be former public school students. In other words, next year parents who have never, ever sent their children to public schools will still get a few thousand dollars from the state. Districts will lose a truckload of money without losing a single student.

He writes that the only thing that worries Ohio legislators is that they acted too quickly and

may potentially alarm too many people to whom legislators might have to actually listen. Again, nothing about this expansion is out of line with a voucher rollout as a matter of substance or policy; the only problem is the speed with which it’s barreling into Certain Neighborhoods. Someone cranked up the heat on that pot of frogs a little too swiftly.

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