…legislators in the House and Senate not only restored [Ed Choice vouchers] in their versions of the budget, they went another step. They created a new pilot program for special education students in kindergarten through 12th grade to transfer to private schools or to other public school districts.
Such a new course in education policy demands at the least that a proposed program be presented in a stand-alone bill, examined and approved or rejected on its own merits. As it is, the voucher program is being hustled into the relative safety of a budget bill, legislators unlikely to vote down an entire spending plan because of a single program, flawed or not.
The new voucher program raises several issues. One is expense. The pilot program would cap participation at 3 percent of the total of eligible students in the previous school year. Last year, about 260,000 public school students had special education needs. The state spent about $438 million on special education. Fully funded (on the basis of the $20,000 cap for the most expensive student), the program would cost $156 million a year. It is unlikely all of the voucher students would come close to maximum cost. Still, the program would make available a substantial portion of special education dollars for a tiny fraction of students, raising reasonable questions about effective allocation of public funds.
Another concern is accountability, a responsibility to ensure private schools accomplish the services paid with public funds. Legislators provided the Department of Education no new money to administer the program, according to the state schools superintendent. Instead, they are expanding an expensive program without adequate means for oversight.
And where have we heard this failure to look before you leap, to provide for oversight and properly fund it before, a previous failure which is now giving Ohio financial problems?
Answer, if you can’t get it on your own: CHARTER SCHOOLS.
Use your line item veto, Governor. Please use it, if you can’t otherwise get that language out of there.