An Ohio Organization Claims Senate Bill will “Starve Public Schools”

Policy Matters Ohio issued a recent report claiming Senate Bill 85 will “starve public schools and hurt students.”

PencilOfficials with the organization claim Ohio public schools have continued to struggle to recover from the Great Recession, all while state lawmakers “have steadily diverted resources to private schools by expanding voucher programs.”

Reports suggest Ohio has in fact increased funding for voucher programs by 352 percent since 2008.

Policy Matters Ohio is sending a fearful message as lawmakers prepare to consider the new legislation.

Senate Bill 85 was introduced by Senator Matt Huffman of Lima and would expand voucher eligibility to cover about 74 percent, or 1.08 million of Ohio’s students, including many living in high-performing districts.

The organization notes the move would increase the current budget for the three existing voucher programs it would replace – by $185 million.

The Bill details a $5,000 voucher cap for a family of four with students in grades K-8 living at 200 percent of the poverty line – or $49,200 a year. A $7,500 voucher cap would be in place for the same income level for students in grades 9-12.

Now, for families with incomes up to 400 percent of poverty, or $98,400, for a family of four would be eligible for 50 percent of the maximum voucher amount. And students with family incomes above 400 percent of poverty are not eligible for the voucher.

“SB 85 uses the guise of school choice to chip away at Ohio’s public-school system,” said report author, Policy Matters State Policy Fellow, Victoria Jackson. “Parents think they are giving their children a better education, but even though students using vouchers tend to be more well-off than their public-school peers, studies show they score worse in math and English.” 

Policy Matters Ohio suggests even before the Bill was introduced, Ohio was heading in the wrong direction.

Reports indicate, in the fiscal year 2016, Ohio spent $236.6 million on private school tuition. The recently passed 2018-2019 House budget would increase funding for the income-based EdChoice voucher program by 57 percent over the 2016-2017 budget — appropriating $37.8 million for Fiscal Year 2018 and $47 million for the fiscal year 2019. 

The press release issued by the organization goes on to argue the House budget doesn’t fund traditional public schools well enough to successfully keep up with inflation.

“SB 85 is straight out of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s playbook,” Jackson said. “Lawmakers should oppose the bill and stop prioritizing underperforming private schools over public education.

The news staff has reached out to Senator Matt Huffman for comment.



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