Fund what works: Public dollars for public schools
Regardless of race, neighborhood, or how much money is in their parents’ bank account, every child should be able to attend an excellent school that has everything they need to learn and grow. Every dollar spent on vouchers makes this vision less achievable. Vouchers take public money and give it to private schools, with real consequences for the 90% of our kids who attend Ohio's public schools.
With their recent budget proposal, Senate leadership has shown they are willing, even eager, to sacrifice Ohio’s kids to ram through a universal voucher scheme they’ve been planning for years. The Senate plan would make EdChoice vouchers — worth $8,407 a year for students in grades 9-12, and $6,165 a year for those in grades K-8 — available to households with incomes up to 450% of the federal poverty rate. (For a family of four, that’s about $135,000 a year.) And they wouldn’t stop there: Senate leadership would also allow households making more than that to get 10% of the value of EdChoice vouchers, subsidizing a discount on private school tuition for the children of the wealthiest Ohioans.
Kids bring their whole selves to the classroom. To succeed they need well-funded schools — and they need good food, health care, and quality child care to build a solid foundation. Senate leadership would make it very easy to qualify for vouchers, while Ohio already makes it very difficult to qualify for other, more fundamental public programs. Legislators impose tight caps on family income to participate in SNAP, Medicaid, publicly funded child care and free school meals. Compare those income limits to the proposal for limitless access to private school vouchers and you get a good sense of where the Senate majority’s priorities and loyalties lie.
Public schools in Ohio are responsible for educating 1.6 million students. The Senate proposal cuts their funding by $245.6 million in FY 2024 and by $295.8 million in FY 2025. At the same time, Senate leadership would increase funding for vouchers by $182 million in FY 2024 and $191 million in FY 2025 — pushing the total annual cost to more than a billion dollars by the end of this budget cycle. That’s $1 billion of Ohio taxpayers’ money being funneled to unaccountable private schools, many of which are operated by churches and other religious entities.
The budgetary choices that we see in the Senate proposal begs the question of where our legislators’ priorities lie when it comes to funding our education system. How we fund our schools now will impact education — and our workforce and economy — for years to come. Ohio is currently ranked near the bottom at 46th in the nation when it comes to equitable distribution of funding in schools. By proposing massive new spending on vouchers, Ohio legislators would only make things worse.
In the last budget, we won the Fair School Funding Plan, with the promise to fully and fairly fund schools so every child in Ohio gets what they need to set them on the path to a good life. Now we need legislators to live up to that promise and finish the job. State leaders have a constitutional duty to protect public schools. Ensuring a “thorough and efficient system of common schools” — as Ohio’s constitution requires — means correcting disparities created by bad policies of the past, which still harm kids today. We do that by prioritizing public schools, cutting spending on vouchers, and paying teachers what they’re worth, so every student in every district in every school can thrive.