The “backpack bill” is a dishonest game for taxpayers’ money


If there’s one thing Ohio taxpayers hate, besides paying taxes, it’s getting ripped off by dishonest ideologues at the Statehouse.

You’re not going to like what two lawmakers are eager to do with your tax dollars that pay for public schools. They want to divert a ton of it to mainly religious and private schools, without conditions or determined monitoring.

We’ve been down this road before with the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) disaster. The online charter school embezzled billions of tax dollars to years while politicians looked away and pocketed campaign checks. The latest scheme to funnel public funds into private coffers (under the smokescreen of school choice) is the brainchild of a conservative Christian lobby group and two Ohio Republicans. House.

State Reps. Riordan McClain, R-Upper Sandusky, and Marilyn John, R-Richland County, have joined forces with the Center for Christian Virtue to siphon off an unlimited amount of public money (estimates range from $150 million over $1 billion). annually) of the state’s new Fair School Funding Plan. They were eager to get their hands on the money for the long-awaited funding overhaul, designed to lift chronically underfunded public schools out of despair.

Just a few months after the reformulation of the education payment plan ultimately Approved — after a years-long bipartisan effort to create more equitable, stable and predictable streams of income for Ohio’s 1.6 million public school children — McClain and John laid out their plan for a reduction in the ‘stock. They held a press conference, organized with children from private schools and a very partisan religious lobbyist, and presented their plan to raid the public allowance as a benign undertaking “on students and increasing opportunities for all”.

A perfectly reasonable feeling that masked a perfectly radical objective of defunding public education.

Lawmakers, allied with CCV Chairman Aaron Baer, ​​have pushed for universal vouchers in Ohio. Essentially, they believe taxpayers should be responsible for two separate education systems, public and private, with some caveats for the latter:

  1. Private schools remain exempt from the same level of financial and academic scrutiny that applies to public schools.
  2. Private schools, unlike public schools, do not have to enroll all students who apply, regardless of their background or any physical or mental disabilities.
  3. Private schools can ignore employment discrimination laws that public schools must follow.

They introduced House Bill 290, currently being debated in committee, which would essentially allow anyone in Ohio to get a check from the government — regardless of income or quality of school. community – to ostensibly offset tuition at any school, from parish to preparatory academy, was selected over the local district.

In theory, wealthy families whose students are already enrolled in private schools could dip into public education funds they don’t need. Taxpayers could shoulder the burden of bailing out dozens of religious schools losing revenue and enrollment.

“This is a major shift in education policy,” Baer said.

I will say. A major departure from the Establishment Clause and separation of church and state. A major repudiation of the Ohio Constitution’s promise to fund do not individual students, but a “statewide common school system”. And arguably a major misuse of a limited pool of public funds to fund private schools held to a different standard.

McClain and John dodge questions about prohibitive private tuition subsidy spending, but regale the Christian right with “pro-child, pro-parent, pro-family” talking points that slyly suggest a lack of those foundations in Ohio’s 610 traditional school districts. Sponsors and religious advocates of the bold gamble to privatize public education have dubbed House Bill 290 “the knapsack bill,” as in a backpack of taxpayers’ money to get into no any non-public school of their choice.

The nickname is deliberately harmless and insidious. He describes choosing a taxpayer-supported school as a necessity to enrich learning because, as McClain astutely noted, every child is different, with different gifts, interests, and needs. John added that each student learns in a different way. “One size doesn’t work,” she said. All explosive revelations (not!) to professionally trained educators experienced in teaching and adapting daily lesson plans to a wide range of learners who have different gifts, interests and needs.

Fanatics of universal vouchers insist that public funding of private schools and religious education will improve public schools through competition. Please. The same arguments were made with the proliferation of abyssal Ohio charter schools that routinely recorded grade levels. rear traditional public schools. A Cincinnati Enquirer analysis of private and mostly religious schools — which have received hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars since 2018 — documented similar trends in lower state test scores for parochial schools. In 88% of the cities surveyed, public school districts outperformed private schools in academic achievement.

What is really driving this budget cut and tax dollars is an ideology, not an educational outcome. The pair of GOP lawmakers betrayed each other. “It seems like every day another story comes out of a rural, suburban or urban school pushing harmful political agendas into the classroom.” Lobbyist Baer, ​​whose organization promotes public policy “that reflects the truth of the gospel,” is clearly on a mission against the “hypersexualized and political agenda imposed” on Ohio students.

Whatever the mistakes, float your boat. But keep your mitts of our tax money and stop ripping off the public school system that educates 90% of our children.

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