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Ohio Education Association Urges Governor to Reject Senate Bill 89’s Harmful Voucher Expansion

[November 23, 2020] The Ohio Education Association (OEA) is deeply disappointed in the decision of lawmakers in the Ohio General Assembly last week to pass an amended version of Senate Bill 89 (SB 89) that removes positive aspects of the bill passed by the House and increases voucher eligibility beyond 2020-2021 levels. OEA is now urging Governor Mike DeWine to veto the damaging legislation.

“Vouchers drain needed resources from the 90 percent of students who attend Ohio’s public schools. This drain forces too many communities into raising their property taxes, which then subsidize tuition for many students who never stepped foot in the public schools that are now financing their private school education. Diverting resources from public schools has real consequences for students who don’t take vouchers, including larger class sizes and reduced opportunities that would have set them up for future success,” said OEA President Scott DiMauro. “By grandfathering in previously voucher-eligible students, whether they had used the vouchers or not, SB 89 fails to curb the destructive explosion of the voucher program, contrary to proponents’ claims. There was no compromise and no consultation with the education community to strike the deal that was passed out by the conference committee. It’s a voucher expansion, plain and simple.”

Previously, the House-passed version of SB 89 contained many positive provisions, including moving away from pass-through funding of vouchers and dissolution of existing academic distress commissions in Youngstown, Lorain and East Cleveland. These provisions were removed in conference committee. Instead, new voucher eligibility criteria was put in place that expands EdChoice beyond its current levels.

“The ill-conceived plan to extend EdChoice voucher eligibility to families making more than the median income undermines the stated aims of that program and punishes lower-income families, particularly in communities of color, that are losing critical funding to send wealthier children to private, mostly religious schools, which often perform worse than their public school counterparts, on the taxpayer’s dime.”

A recent analysis by the Cincinnati Enquirer shows that in nearly 9 of 10 cases, students in public school districts outperform private school voucher students in the same zip codes on comparable state tests that both groups of students take. Further, SB 89 does nothing to address the problem of pass-through funding that deducts voucher amounts from state aid to school districts.

“Absent a veto from the governor on SB 89, it is more critical than ever that the General Assembly pass House Bill 305 to directly fund charters and vouchers, reducing the damage to local district caused by the voucher expansion of SB 89,” DiMauro said. “HB 305’s funding mechanism would go a long way toward protecting public school districts’ budgets and preventing them from having to raise property taxes to subsidize private school tuition.”

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