Representative Matt Huffman (R-Lima) held a press conference on Monday, December 12, 2011 to outline changes to a proposed statewide voucher program. The “PACT” scholarship program was proposed in House Bill 136 which had narrowly passed the House Education Committee and has yet to reach the House Floor. OEA strongly opposes HB 136, a bill which has also drawn loud criticism from school boards and superintendents around Ohio.
Huffman outlined the following changes to the bill: limit the scholarship amount to the state per-pupil spending by district; local districts retain excess funds; limit participants to one percent of district enrollment; set eligibility for household income at 300% of poverty (approximately $67,000 for a family of four); and eliminate the education savings account provision of the bill. Huffman indicated he does not anticipate HB 136 to move forward, but that the revised proposal may be introduced as separate legislation or added to another bill.
To be clear, OEA strongly opposes this revised proposal. The expansion of vouchers statewide is a fundamentally flawed idea. Vouchers drain scarce resources from public schools where the vast majority of Ohio’s students are served. Public schools are already dealing with harmful budget cuts that have led to lost academic programs, layoffs and reduced opportunities for students. Taking taxpayer money to fund private school tuition for some students, including those already enrolled in private school, is the wrong choice for Ohio.