“I think that’s the most important thing is that we get a policy where the money follows the kid to whatever choice that works best for the kids and the families,” he said.
Will Schwartz, deputy director of legislative services at the Ohio School Boards Association, which opposes the bill, said the new bill would potentially have a greater effect on suburban schools, where families who would not have qualified for the program previously due to income levels may take advantage of the project.
“There’s a strong possibility that you would see students, either public or private school students who reside in non-voucher eligible areas, taking a voucher to participate in this program in a private school because this is expanding,” he said.
Right now, it’s not clear how much the bill would cost. Estimates range between $150 million to close to $1 billion in the first year, on top of the approximately $11 billion the state has spent on education in each of the last two years.
State Rep. Riordan McClain, R-Upper Sandusky, one of the cosponsors of the bill, said he doubts there will be a large increase in additional spending right away, because people weren’t quick to adopt the current EdChoice voucher system. But McClain also noted it makes sense to spend additional funds on education.
The bill would also affect families in different parts of the state in different ways. In a large city like Dayton, many children are already eligible for state funding to go to a private school. In a rural area, there may not be any private or charter schools to attend.
Scott DiMauro, president of the Ohio Education Association, which represents schoolteachers across Ohio, said the bill could also lead to higher property taxes, which is another way public schools fund themselves. If local districts need to make up losses from funding the expansion, which the OEA believes will happen, asking the property owners to raise their taxes may be the solution, he said.
Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said he is in favor of education being the parent’s choice. He said Catholic schools in the area have a good academic reputation and a fair number of children in Catholic schools are not Catholic.
“I do think that education should be parental choice,” Schnurr said.
Elizabeth Lolli, superintendent of Dayton Public Schools, said she is not in favor of expanding the school voucher system, which she said has already hurt Dayton Public Schools. She said her concern was that money would be diverted from public schools to pay for private schools.
“My concern is that you’re robbing public school to pay for private school education,” Lolli said. “So how is that equitable?”