June 6, 2023
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Neil Bhaerman, email@example.com
OFT Statement: Senate Budget Bill Threatens Ohio's Public Schools
Today, the Senate Finance Committee released a substitute bill for HB 33, which sets the state’s biennial budget. OFT President Melissa Cropper released the following statement in response:
“We are alarmed by provisions in the Senate Finance Committee’s substitute bill which threaten the long-term funding for Ohio’s public schools and diminish accountability and oversight for K-12 education in Ohio.
The bill would make every Ohio family eligible for some amount of private school vouchers, regardless of their ability to pay for private schools or the quality of their local public schools. Paying private school tuition for wealthy families is not a good use of our education dollars, especially when the state is still trying to accomplish the full and fair public school funding that is required by Ohio’s constitution.
As we’ve mentioned in our legislative testimony, public programs that provide assistance for food, child care, and Medicaid, have eligibility cut-offs of 185%, 142%, and 156% of the poverty level, respectively. Food, child care, and healthcare are needs. Private school vouchers, which have been shown to not improve educational outcomes for students, are not a need. It is absurd to increase eligibility for EdChoice vouchers to 400% of the poverty level as the Governor proposed or 450% as the House proposed, let alone to also allow partial vouchers to families that are over 450% of the poverty level as this substitute bill calls for.
We also strongly oppose the inclusion of SB 1 in the biennial budget. SB 1 is a divisive and unnecessary restructuring of the Ohio Department of Education that strips power from a non-partisan elected Board of Education and hands it to a partisan, appointed politician. Parents, educators, students, and administrators have testified against SB 1 because we know that our schools work best when education policy makers are elected officials accountable to their local school districts and communities. This bill is too big of a reorganization to shove through as part of a budget bill. It deserves more attention and a more thoughtful, deliberative legislative process.
Finally, we are disappointed that this bill leaves the policy of mandatory retention in place for students who perform poorly on the third grade reading test. Every student is different, but the mandatory retention policy forces a one size fits all solution to a complex problem. For some students, retention might be needed to advance their reading skills, but for other students, the negative impacts may outweigh the positive aspects. This is why we urge legislators to remove mandatory retention and let educators, in collaboration with parents, make the decision that is best for each individual student.”
The Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) is composed of 55 local unions representing 20,000 members who are active and retired public school teachers, charter school teachers, school support staff, higher education faculty and staff, and public employees. OFT works to advance quality education and a voice in the workplace for Ohio’s education professionals. OFT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers