COLUMUS, OHIO – Columbus City Schools is the latest district to join a group planning to sue the state of Ohio over its EdChoice voucher system.
The program, which allows families to use public funds to send their children to private schools, violates the Ohio Constitution, claims the Vouchers Hurt Ohio group. He argues that elected officials are failing to meet their constitutional obligation to fund a “comprehensive and adequate” system of public schools.
The Columbus Board of Education voted 6-1 to join the group, with board member James Ragland voting against. The board waived a usual rule that such resolutions had to be read twice and decided to vote instead after just one reading.
“We are a consortium fighting for the state of Ohio to act within its own legal limits,” said Michael Cole, board member. “Make sure that public school districts… are not harmed again by the way dollars are diverted to accommodate, illegally and unfairly, other schools. “
Coupons Hurt Ohio hired the Cleveland-based law firm Walter Haverfield. It is not known when the court challenge will be filed.
“The original idea was that we would save these kids from a supposedly failing school,” said Bill Phillis, executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding. “It has become a discount program for people who just want private education rather than the public system. “
As the state’s largest school district, Columbus will undoubtedly be the biggest contributor to the cause. The membership fee is $ 2 per student, according to enrollment on the 2020 report card – which equates to just over $ 97,000 for Columbus, which has enrolled 48,526 students.
This is a small change, however, from the impact of the voucher program. Columbus is hit harder than any other district, losing nearly 5,800 students and $ 28 million in the 2019-20 school year alone.
Ohio Republicans, who dominate both houses of the legislature, are also considering a new bill that would create a program of universal vouchers, essentially making every student in state public schools eligible for a voucher for a school. private. West Virginia is the only other state to adopt such a system, which is slated to start in 2022.
Currently, EdChoice vouchers are only available to students whose home schools perform poorly on their report cards. Their district must pay their families $ 4,560 per year for K-8 tuition and $ 6,000 for high school.
Vouchers Hurt Ohio lists 72 member districts on its website, including Licking Heights, South-Western, Westerville and Worthington locally.
Ohio has more than 600 public districts in total.
The new organization evolved from the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, a group involved in the DeRolph court cases, in which the Ohio Supreme Court said the system for funding public schools in the State was unconstitutional.
Board member Ragland, the only person to vote ‘no’, told fellow board members that the lawsuit ‘demonizes’ families who make the choices they deem best for their lives. children, using the resources at their disposal.
He noted that some district employees have the resources to relocate outside of Columbus, to send their children to other districts, or to send their children to private schools.
“Where I have to draw the line is where we practice school choice for our own families, and then with this vote deny school choice to other families,” Ragland said. “This is the height of hypocrisy.”
He said schools in the city of Columbus need to improve their offerings to attract families, as well as the funds that travel with them.
Ragland is the director of provider outreach for School Choice Ohio, a group that advocates for private and charter schools. In September, the Columbus Education Association, the district’s teachers’ union, voted “no confidence” in Ragland’s ability to serve the district.
In this 2012 file photo, a seven-year-old boy works on his St. Patrick’s Day story during a class at the Near West Intergenerational Charter School in Cleveland. In a guest column today, charter school advocates are calling on Ohio to provide more money for public charter school facilities.