We posted the basics of House Bill 136 and the way it has the very real potential to bankrupt some school districts while decreasing overall state funding for schools. That information we shared was appalling on its own, yet the bill has more secrets that, in our opinion, make the funding scenarios even worse.  The scenario we discussed only applied to students who are currently attending public schools and who might opt to apply for a waiver to attend a private school.  Under that scenario, it may not be likely that the 43,000 students we mentioned would all become a reality next year, or even within 2-3 years.  Therefore, the $50 million that the state would save might not be realized immediately.

Perhaps realizing that delay the creator of HB 136, Republican Matt Huffman, included a way for the state to launder state tax dollars through school district accounts in order to speed up the process of cutting public school funding.

Here’s Huffman’s plan (as fully approved by 9 other Republicans on the House Education Committee):

According to a four-year phase-in schedule, students who are already attending nonpublic schools, are eligible to receive PACT scholarships [vouchers], as long as they meet the program’s income requirements.  The phase-in schedule is described in the following table:

This means that next school year, every Kindergarten student entering one of the private schools would be able to receive a tuition voucher (subject to individual eligibility).  In each successive year, additional grades would be added into the eligibility pool, until all existing private school students are in the pool.  In 2010, the total number of students was over 180,000, more than enough to use up the 43,000 unused vouchers.  We have no reason to expect the vouchers to last all four years of the phase-in process, however.  In 2010, over 70,000 students were enrolled in private schools in grades K-4, meaning that if only 61% of those students apply and are granted vouchers, then the vouchers will be fully used up only 2 years from now.  Over 130,000 students were enrolled in grades K-8, so three years from now a mere one-third of students would be necessary to gobble up all available vouchers.

As we pointed out in an earlier post, the state will get to keep over $50 million by issuing every available voucher to students.  That post, however, only applied to students who are NOT currently attending public schools.  The effect of students who were ALWAYS planning on attending private schools is horrifying and is tantamount to legalized money laundering.

Of the over 180,000 students in enrolled in private schools last year, over 15,000 were kindergartners.  None of those students figure in to the calculation of a school district’s state funding amount.  Under HB136, however, any student receiving a voucher will be counted in the district’s enrollment.  Then, the district is allocated their respective per pupil state funds before the losing the $5704 voucher deduction.  Of this $5704, the state will keep a minimum of $1,141 (since the maximum “scholarship” amount is $4563).

So, for EVERY student in a private school that is awarded a voucher, the state pockets at least $1,141 – money that the districts never see.  In fact, it is money that never even existed before the student was “created” in the funding system through their application for a voucher.  Huffman and his fellow Republicans have created a system that has built-in incentives for them to guide students to private schools so that the state can decrease public school funding.

And the public school fares even worse.  A majority of public schools receive state funding that is LESS THAN the amount of the voucher (see the HB136 funding spreadsheet).  Every new voucher awarded to a student attending a private school, a student who likely NEVER intended to set foot in the public school, will result in a loss of state funding for the district, and the subsequent misdirection of tax dollars ($1,141 per pupil) previously allocated for school funding back to the state.

The wealthier the family, the smaller the tuition amount, and the more money the state takes away from public schools.

In the Olentangy Local Schools, for example, the median income would result in a tuition payment of only $3,422, meaning the state would take back nearly $2,300 per private school student.  The wealthiest students would only receive $2,282 in tuition, with the state getting a kickback of over $3,400.  All for a student who never intended to set foot in a public school!

Shawnee Local Schools, in Matt Huffman’s own Allen County, currently receives less than $1,000 in per pupil aid from the state.  As a result, each “new” private school student and voucher recipient in the school district, a student who will never attend a Shawnee Local school, will cause the following funding numbers:

  • New state funds per pupil: $960
  • State voucher deduction: ($5,704)
  • Net loss to district per voucher: $4,744

If only 25 “new” students appear in Shawnee Local, the district will lose $118,600.  Of course, Matt Huffman’s plan will also kick back over 23% in this newly created money back to the state in some strange sort of private school student “finder’s fee.”

And Shawnee is one of 52 school districts that receive less than the state’s $1,141 deduction in initial state aid, meaning that the district is literally paying the state for each “new” private school student that they will never have the opportunity to educate in on off their top-rated schools.

The examples of this scheme to de-fund public schools are plentiful as 533 of 612 school districts will experience a net loss in funding for every voucher awarded, including this penalty for students that, essentially, never existed before.

We’d like to share one final example as we wrap up.

The Westerville City School district is where Governor Kasich lives, and where he has chosen NOT to send his daughters in lieu of a private school.  Now, Kasich shouldn’t qualify for the voucher since his income is too high, but many in his community would qualify.  Last week, Westerville residents voted down a much-needed school funding levy.  With that outcome, the district is having to make some difficult cuts across the board and is relying on stretching every last dollar.  If Kasich’s neighbors choose to send their children to a private kindergarten next year and opt for a voucher, Westerville will suffer a surprise cut of $4,333 each, a cut unrelated to Westerville’s existing enrollment numbers or long-term budgeting.  If only 40 students per grade in Westerville opt for vouchers (a conservative estimate based on current enrollment numbers), then existing Westerville students will suffer cuts in state funding as follows:

  • 2012-2013: $173,320
  • 2013-2014: $866,600
  • 2014-2015: $1,559,880
  • 2015 and beyond: $2,253,160 per year

And what has Westerville done to deserve such cuts?

  • Had its funding cut by 13.6 MILLION DOLLARS by the state of Ohio and through decreases in tax revenues.
  • Achieved the state’s highest rating of Excellent with Distinction for the past two years.
  • Westerville has the lowest cost of any district in Franklin county that has received the Excellent with Distinction.
  • Westerville’s administrative costs are among the lowest in Central Ohio and the entire state.

 

On the other hand, maybe we’re over-analyzing this.  Maybe Matt Huffman’s only motive is to subsidize his four kids’ tuition to Lima Catholic Schools.

Distinctly smells of ignorant Republican politics either way.

 

 

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