Today’s DDN included a front page article concerning House Bill 136 written by Margo Rutledge Kissell. HB136 greatly expands Ohio’s voucher program to make it possible that all state money now provided to local schools may, instead, be used to fund vouchers for private schools. The bill has been reported out of the House Education Committee, but, as yet has not been debated within the whole Assembly. Here is an e-mail I sent to Ms. Kissell:
I was glad to see your article in today’s DDN, “Voucher Bill Next School Battle,” but I think you missed noting the most newsworthy aspect of this bill — the fact that it proposes to use coercive taxation to fund religious education on a scale, up to now, unheard of in Ohio or, for that matter, any other state. This bill deserves a lot of attention and analysis, and I hope you will expand on what you wrote today to include three important aspects that you omitted in today’s piece:
- You focused on the budgetary impact this HB136 legislation will have on local school districts, and ignored the key fact that almost all private schools in Ohio are religious schools. The current voucher program is defended as necessary to give children in failing schools a chance for a good education in a religious school. This POV, I believe, is misguided and makes for bad law, but, because of sympathy for the disadvantaged, the current voucher program has public and court support. The huge expansion of the use of tax money to pay for religious education, if HB136 is approved, however, is much more controversial and certainly will be subject to challenge in the court system. The expansion of vouchers to “excellent” Ohio school systems nullifies the argument that vouchers are needed to advance educational opportunity for the disadvantaged. Of course, leaders in public school districts will wail and moan whenever it appears funds might be taken from their districts. They hate, for example, that they are losing students and funding to on-line public charter schools. But, the big issue here is not the wailing and moaning of local school leaders concerning the possible diminishing of their funding. The big news, if HB136 is approved, is that tens of millions of tax dollars will be transferred from public schools to private religious schools. If the Assembly thinks “excellent” districts would benefit from more competition, why does it not simply change the law and allow public charter schools to start new schools in “excellent” districts?
- Your article failed to describe how nonpublic schools differ from public schools. In addition to religious training / indoctrination, private schools operate according to different standards concerning teacher certification and different standards concerning policies admitting and dismissing students. Private religious schools are empowered to treat both staff and students in ways that would be considered outrageous and unacceptable in the public sector. This freedom of religious schools, of course, is what appeals to many religious parents who seek such an environment for their children. But, it seems unreasonable that tax money should be coerced to support such schools. Private schools are free to choose or reject applicants to their school based on standards that would be deemed unfair in public schools. One amendment that was defeated in committee said: “No nonpublic school that receives payments from a parent or student who is paid a scholarship under the PACT scholarship program shall limit admission to students on the basis of intellectual ability, measure of achievement, or aptitude, disability, or athletic ability.”
- I’m surprised that you did not report the fact that two local Dayton legislators serve on the House Education Committee and have cast votes in the committee concerning HB136. Republican Jim Butler voted “Yes” for the legislation and Democrat Clayton Luckie voted “No.” As you develop more in-depth reporting concerning HB136, I hope you will contact both of these legislators and ask them to go on record to defend their votes.
I think your readers will be well served, if you research these possible areas and write future articles concerning this important legislation. Thanks for your efforts.
Sincerely, Mike Bock
- Kettering Treasurer Says Local Cost Of Voucher Plan, HB136, Is $2.5+ Million Yearly — 2+ Mills Of New Taxes, By Mike Bock, on September 30th, 2011
- Ohio’s Proposed Voucher Law HB136 — Should Tax Money Be Used To Fund Religious Education?, By Mike Bock, on September 29th, 2011