Last night I had the opportunity to directly participate in the legislative process when I provided testimony in front of the House Education Committee. I was privileged to listen to numerous amazing individuals from all over Ohio speak about the adverse effects of this legislation on their schools and community. Sadly, too many Republicans on the committee ignored cold, hard facts and passed the bill, 12-10, moving it to a floor vote. In the end, two Republican committee members went against their party, Representatives Anielski and Baker.
Printed below is the written testimony I submitted to the committee for their consideration. While my original intent was to read the testimony, I went off script after patiently waiting 4 hours in the freezing committee room for my turn to speak. After introducing myself I said,
Four hours ago I was nervous about speaking, but now I’m just cold and hungry. As such, I’m going to cut to the chase and start talking numbers. Because there is nothing better than listening to statistics after 9:00 at night, right?
I can’t express how at ease I felt from that point forward, and I jumped right to the charts you’ll see below and began explaining the numbers – straight from ODE’s funding reports. I urge you to take your time in digesting the numbers and understanding the implications both to districts and the legislators who voted this through. I tried to provide some brief explanations with each chart, but feel like there is nothing as good as explaining these numbers face-to-face with the elected officials who represent these districts. I specifically chose the districts in my testimony because they are home districts of committee members. Rest assured, that fact was noticed by all. The experience was nerve-wracking and invigorating. Enjoy!
Ohio House of Representatives
House Education Committee, Gerald L. Stebelton, Chair
Gregory P. Mild, Educator, Columbus Education Association
Chair Stebelton and members of the committee,
I am not going to spend my time in an effort to sway your view on the ideology of this legislation. I honestly can’t envision a scenario where a guest speaker to this committee could legitimately have an impact on your deep-seated beliefs any more than I can envision a scenario where the committee could alter mine.
Likewise, I am not an attorney and will not be discussing the probable court cases that will address the illegalities of House Bill 136, questioning the constitutionality of the state’s decision to redirect additional public tax dollars toward private enterprises. I’ll let some lawyers get their income stimulated through that process.
Instead, I want to submit some numbers that have me questioning the intent of this legislation. The figures that House Bill 136 proposes are not only clearly inequitable and grossly inflated; they will also cause many taxpayers to scratch their heads and further question the logic of this elected body. I am fairly certain that you are well aware that the school funding model in Ohio has been under tremendous scrutiny for years and none of the recent legislation that has reached the Governor’s desk has done anything to correct the issue of state funding. This legislation, instead of leading Ohio down the path to school funding utopia, burdens us with further inequities that my generation will be tasked with trying to clean up.
The problem I find in the numbers is this – through this voucher model, the state will be shifting money into private schools at a much greater rate than what the public school is receiving. Additionally, because state funding is unequally distributed on a per pupil basis (for many reasons, of course), the vouchers are subsequently not available to all students in the same way, discounting the notion and alleged need for this legislation in the first place. The charts below include some of the most egregious offenses of the application of the bill on school districts.
I have updated the figures to reflect the changes to the bill from Monday, September 19. The school funding figures are from the Ohio Department of Education for 2011-2012 and the median federal AGI amounts are from the Ohio Department of Taxation for the tax year 2009, the most recent figures available.
|District name||Centerville City SD (Montgomery County)|
|Net per pupil state funding||$1,145.41|
|% of students eligible||24%|
|Number of students remaining||6,337|
Ohio will pay a private school over four times the amount per pupil than is paid to Centerville City for their public school students. 24% of the students could control 100% of the state funding through the use of vouchers.
|District name||Sylvania City SD (Lucas County)|
|Net per pupil state funding||$1,412.02|
|% of students eligible||30%|
|Number of students remaining||5,373|
Ohio will pay a private school over three times the amount per pupil than is paid to Sylvania City for their public school students. 30% of the students could control 100% of the state funding through the use of vouchers.
|District name||Hudson City SD (Summit County)|
|Median income||$70,969 (5th highest in Ohio)|
|Net per pupil state funding||$2,115.82|
|% of students eligible||60%|
|Number of students remaining||1,913|
Unlike the previous two examples, the Hudson City School District in Summit County has the 5th highest median income in Ohio, yet will receive greater voucher support by way of 60% of the student population having access and the amount only being slightly more than 1.5 times their per pupil funding amount.
|District name||Salem City SD (Columbiana County)|
|Net per pupil state funding||$2,485.75|
|% of students eligible||40%|
|Number of students remaining||1,373|
The median income in the Salem City School District is less than half of Hudson City, is $13,000 below the base qualifying amount for 100% of the voucher funding, and only 40% of those students would be able to have access to the vouchers before zeroing out the account.
|District name||Elida Local SD (Allen County)|
|Net per pupil state funding||$2,130.13|
|% of students eligible||34%|
|Number of students remaining||1,674|
Elida Local School District is in Allen County and is similar to Salem City in median income and total enrollment, and the numbers involving the vouchers are comparable.
|District name||Shawnee Local SD (Allen County)|
|Net per pupil state funding||$959.57|
|% of students eligible||16%|
|Number of students remaining||2,044|
Elsewhere in Allen County is the Shawnee Local School District with a median income level that comes in right under the base amount for 100% voucher funding, 25% higher than Elida Local. However, with less per pupil funding allocated for Shawnee, the vouchers represent an amount six times greater than the public school student share. With only 404 vouchers available until the state funding forShawneereaches $0, it represents a situation where only 16% of the students have control over the entire allocation of Shawnee Local’s state funding.
|District name||Westlake City SD (Cuyahoga County)|
|Net per pupil state funding||$481.09|
|% of students eligible||10%|
|Number of students remaining||3,568|
Westlake City School District in Cuyahoga County represents one of the many districts with numbers that are severely out of alignment. With such a small amount of state funding, Westlake will lose over nine times their per pupil amount to each voucher that is awarded, meaning that only 10% of the students could actually receive the vouchers before the amount of state funding to Westlake is completely expended. When this occurs, Westlake will have over 3,500 students receiving a total of $0 in state education funding.
|District name||Copley-Fairlawn City SD (Summit County)|
|Net per pupil state funding||$265.27|
|% of students eligible||6%|
|Number of students remaining||3,183|
Copley-Fairlawn City Schools are an example of one of the most extreme disparities in funding via this voucher proposal. A scant 6% of students would be able to get vouchers at over 17 times the per pupil amount, using every last state dollar entering the district, and leaving 94% of students and their parents with absolutely no funding support from the state.
|District name||Olentangy Local SD (Delaware County)|
|Median income||$74,476 (Highest in Ohio)|
|Net per pupil state funding||$331.41|
|% of students eligible||9%|
|Number of students remaining||14,396|
Closer to central Ohiois the fastest growing school district in the state and currently the 8th largest. Olentangy Local also has the distinction of having the highest median income for all school districts inOhio. While this status means that most Olentangy students will qualify for a lesser voucher amount because of this income, the voucher amount is still over 10 times the amount an Olentangy Local student is allocated by the state. And if only 9% opt for the vouchers, since that would be the limit, then the remaining 91% of students are left with no state funding.
|District name||Lancaster City SD (Fairfield County)|
|Net per pupil state funding||$2,740.46|
|% of students eligible||44%|
|Number of students remaining||3,544|
And finally, Lancaster City School District with median income of under $30,000 and where the state is valuing the private school tuition at twice the value of the public schools and less than half of the residents will have access to this program.
If this legislation passes, I wonder how you, the elected representatives for the public, will be able to explain to parents why you have chosen to pay a private school 2 times, 3 times, or greater than 10 times the amount that are paying for their child’s school.
The shifting of public money to private entities is not going to fix educational funding in Ohio and the premise that the competition will cause improvement is misguided when the financial odds are stacked in the favor of one side over the other.
I respectfully request that you table this legislation so that you may focus your efforts on meaningful endeavors that will serve to strengthen Ohio’s public education system so that each and every child can learn something new every single day.
At the end, I told the committee that I provided this particular testimony because I knew that some of them needed to have a reason to be able to vote “no” that was not based on opinion or ideology and that this information gave them the excuse they needed. They could take these facts to their constituents and explain why they could not support such an inequitable funding system. Two of them might have taken that handout, and I have strong reason to believe that the Democrats on the committee intend to put the heat on the others.
I intend to add fuel to the fire.