By William L. Phillis | Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding
Vouchers have extracted $2.5 billion from Ohio school districts since 2008. For certain, this loss of revenue has inflicted education harm to students in the districts. As egregious as the financial harm is, there is greater harm inflicted on many fronts.
The efficacy of children being educated together on common ground in common school classrooms is obvious. Children of all races, religions, economic and social standings, native abilities, etc. are welcomed (and entitled) to educational opportunities in the nurturing and inclusive environment of the common school system. This is where the social fabric is knit together. This is where children of all types learn to study together; play together; and become Americans together. This is where the Ohio Constitution comes down.
The common school is funded by state and local taxes, controlled and managed by the community in a democratic way under the regulations of the state. The common school is typically the center of community life.
Those who wish to opt out of the common system at their own expense have the opportunity (and should have) to do so. Historically, in the range of six percent of the students have opted for tuition-based private education; while, the overwhelming majority of students have been educated in the common school. Over the years, the private education sector has lobbied for public funds for private choice. Until recent decades, officials in all branches of government have resisted the use of tax funds for the education of children in private (most often parochial) schools.
The flood gates of tax money were opened slowly to private schools until the voucher concept was introduced. Voucher expansion has been rapid.
So, what’s the greater problem with funding private education choice via voucher schemes? Vouchers hurt public school students; segregate students; force taxpayers to support sectarian instruction in parochial schools, wherein there is no accountability in how the public funds are spent; and diminish support for the common school system.
There is no academic upside for voucher students attending private schools. The voucher students do not perform as well academically as their peers in the public system. In most cases, the voucher scheme is a mechanism that requires taxpayers to fund religious education.
The voucher scheme in Ohio has become a rebate and refund program for those already enrolled in private schools and those that never intended to use the public system.
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