Are Ohio residents too dumb to fully take advantage of the state’s voucher program? Some “school-choice” advocates seem to imply as much.
The Mansfield News Journal reported that the vast majority of Ohio’s EdChoice “scholarships” – they’re really vouchers – which are available to students in so-called “failing” schools, were not claimed for the current school year.
Ohio offers 60,000 vouchers through this program, and only about one-third were handed out, the newspaper said.
So if the program is so great, as Gov. John Kasich (R) has claimed, why aren’t more of the “scholarships” being used?
“School-choice” supporters think they have an answer. Even though this scheme has been around since 2011, these voucher hawks said parents just don’t know enough about the program.
“Many parents still don’t know that these scholarships exist as an option,” Kaleigh Frazier, a representative of School Choice Ohio, told the News Journal. “As parents continue to be informed, I think you’ll see numbers continue to increase.”
But there’s another theory behind the low enrollment: Maybe parents just don’t want vouchers for their kids because they’re happy with public schools.
“The vast number of children are enrolled in our traditional public schools and believe they are being appropriately served,” Damon Asbury, director of legislative services with the Ohio School Boards Association, told the newspaper.
And if parents are happy with Ohio public schools, maybe they’re actually opposed to vouchers – rather than ignorant of them.
After all, the EdChoice scheme is costing the state’s public schools dearly. The News Journal said the program took $75 million away from Ohio public schools in fiscal 2012.
Despite the fact that so many of the available vouchers aren’t being used, state lawmakers felt it would be a great idea to make even more vouchers available, naturally. In 2013, the state created 2,000 kindergarten “scholarships” that will be available to families making less than twice the federal poverty level, which maxes out at $46,100 per year for a household of four.
Unfortunately this addition will cost Ohio’s public schools another $25 million over two years.
What’s going on here is quite common. Voucher advocates love to blame low enrollment in their programs on a lack of parental awareness. But that shows just how weak their position truly is – and how little they think of the people they claim to be serving.
If voucher programs were so wonderful, parents would make use of them. The truth is they’re not, and voters have consistently rejected voucher schemes whenever they’ve been given the opportunity to voice their opinion. Since 1967, voters in 23 states have rejected vouchers and other forms of tax aid to religious schools at the ballot box.
Unfortunately voucher advocates don’t care what the public wants, nor do they care what’s best for students. They’re going to stick to their schemes no matter what, because their real interests lie with making money, undermining public schools and forcing states to fund religious education.
It would be nice if voucher boosters looked at this rebuke, folded up their tent and went away. Of course we know that won’t happen. But we can hope that the good people of the Buckeye State keep looking for more ways to get the message across that what they really want is more support and improvement for the public schools.