February 7, 2022

Jocelyn Rhynard: Vouchers dismantle the promise of public education

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Jocelyn Rhynard is the vice president of the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education. In this op ed for the Dayton Daily News, she explains  the threat posed by school voucher programs.

The myth we tell ourselves that public schools are failing our students is based on the dismantling of the very system we blame.

Last month, 100 public school districts across Ohio, including Dayton Public Schools, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the EdChoice school voucher program. The Ohio Constitution clearly directs the state to establish “a (emphasis added) thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.” By funneling taxpayer dollars through the EdChoice voucher system, Ohio is in direct violation of the constitutional directive to fund a single educational system and instead has created multiple inefficient systems of education and weakened education for all Ohio students.

Just eight years ago, Ohio ranked 16th in the nation for schools, according to EdWeek. At that same time, the General Assembly forked over more than $70 million to the EdChoice voucher system. Since then, Ohio has fallen to 27th in the rankings and wasted more than $163 million dollars in 2021 for the privilege of doing so. There is no evidence that sending public tax dollars to nonpublic entities has resulted in any way an improvement in Ohio’s education system, yet the state continues to waste millions of taxpayer dollars on a program that unravels the promise of public education for all. To date, Ohio has wasted close to $900 million on this single program.

The financial cost of the EdChoice vouchers doesn’t end with that price tag. When millions of dollars are sent to private entities, our public schools are left with fewer funds and resources to accomplish the mission of educating every child. Public districts still have the same costs for building and property maintenance and staff salaries. With a reduced budget, school districts have increasingly depended on raising local property taxes to make up for budget shortfalls. One of the main points of the lawsuit is that the private school voucher program exacerbates the unconstitutional over-reliance on local property taxes in the state’s funding formula for all public schools.

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