Courtsey of The Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding
The Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding, via a letter to all Ohio school superintendents, initiated the participation of boards of education in a legal challenge to Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program. All public school advocates should encourage the leaders of school districts to become involved in this effort.
Discussions among several school leaders and state and national education organizations, in consultation with legal counsel, have led to the conclusion that a legal challenge should go forward.
Vouchers are bleeding public school districts and unless we come together now and do something, the bloodletting is only going to get worse, much worse.
Lawmakers are talking about tripling the voucher program in just one year from 128 school districts losing $148.5 million in 2020 to 413 school districts the next year.
We cannot stand silent witness to the systematic dismantling of the public school system.
We must come together and fight back like we did in the early ‘90s when we successfully challenged the constitutionality of the school funding system.
What began as a “pilot program,” approved by the Supreme Court in 2002, has grown into a major drain on public school funding. When you consider all voucher programs, 513 school districts are losing $333.6 million this year. Additionally, EdChoice income-based vouchers, with direct support from the state, costs districts $64 million because of lost students in the formula ADM. If the voucher programs continue to expand, ultimately every district will be affected.
Every voucher-dollar that is taken from a school district diminishes the level of educational opportunities for the students remaining and replacing those dollars in these times will be difficult, if not impossible. In short, school vouchers have become an existential threat to all school districts – some now, others later.
Equity is another concern for public schools. Private schools tend to enroll higher performing students which meet their standards; hence, public schools then serve a higher percentage of lower performing students with less funds available.
Recognizing this threat, a number of school districts, and others including the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding (Coalition), have come together to explore ways to stop this legislative encroachment on the constitutional rights of public school students. At the request of this group, OSBA has sponsored a research project conducted by Bricker & Eckler to review the current legislation and determine if there are viable claims to support litigation challenging this legislation. That research confirmed that valid claims exist and, subject the vagaries of any legislative challenge in court, those challenges might prevent the implementation of both current and pending voucher legislation. Many believe strongly that such a challenge is an imperative for all of Ohio’s public school districts.
The support group has envisioned a two-pronged attack: an organized statewide public relations campaign designed to make the public aware of the harm flowing from the current and planned voucher legislation, and litigation to challenge the constitutionality of that legislation. The Coalition has offered to coordinate those efforts, as it did in the DeRolph school funding litigation. Each of these goals is monumental, and together the challenge is much larger. To succeed, we need your support, the support of your school district, your board of education and community. Your school district is now being called to push back this threat to all public school districts.
The needs take several forms. First, funds, which will be requested on a per-pupil or some other equitable basis; second, anecdotal information, what have vouchers done to harm your district? Finally, support for the PR effort. The anecdotal information you collect in your district will also help our PR effort because we want the public and eventually the courts to understand the voucher program is harming students, families, taxpayers, public schools and our communities.
Our goal is to have a PR plan in place within a few days and litigation filed by June 1. Timing is important and we need a positive response from you as quickly as possible. Please let us know your initial thoughts by any means available, email, text or phone call. We are not asking for any commitment from you or your district at this time, but an expression of interest. If interested, we will provide you with additional information to share with your board and school community regarding the reasons your district should support this effort and the specific assistance we need.
Thanks for your time and best wishes to all in these difficult times.
Dr. Richard Murray William L. Phillis
Chair Executive Director
Steering Committee Cell: 614-332-2886