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Ohio’s Aggressive School Vouchers Set to Cripple Even High-Scoring Public Schools

January 3, 2020

In the December 30, 2019, Troy Daily News (Ohio), retired superintendent Tom Dunn published a scathing review of the ills of education reform mandates, concluding with Ohio’s private school voucher program, EdChoice, which has twisted “underperforming” to include the highest-graded public schools in the state. Ohio’s school voucher program is on the path to seriously damage public school funding if not accorded a separate funding stream.

From Tom Dunn (links added):

Lies, Lies, and More Lies

As a former school superintendent, one of my most important, difficult, and frustrating responsibilities was trying to stay abreast of state and federal laws governing education. It was during this time that I had my eyes opened to how politics at the state and federal level really works. Suffice it to say that what I learned was disturbing.

First of all, to this day, the sheer number of proposed and/or passed bills makes the task of staying current nearly impossible. I imagine this is a political strategy meant to keep people as confused and overwhelmed as possible. The number of laws that made no sense and were sold to the public with misinformation and lies was staggering.

I felt perpetually conflicted about being forced to implement mandates that were, frankly, bad for kids. The irony is how often the very politicians who denounce bullying use their power to beat adults into submission with their ill-conceived laws. In education, they do this through threats of financial penalty against districts that dare disobey them, by threatening the professional licensure of educators who don’t do as they are told, and/or through character assassination of those who dare question them.

For at least three decades, politicians have claimed their goal has been to close the achievement gap between children who are successful in school and those who are not, and, by their own admission, their laws haven’t worked. They have failed while wasting billions of our tax dollars.

In the early 1990’s, politicians told us that if they could force all schools to follow the same academic standards, the achievement gap would be eliminated. But, the gap still exists. (Schneider’s note: I was able to find this archived, December 14, 2000, Governor’s Commission for Student Success report with Ohio ed-reform details.)

Similarly, politicians promised us that forcing kids to take state approved tests, with schools, teachers, and principals being “held accountable” for their students’ performance, the achievement gap would be eliminated. But, the gap still exists.

The public was also assured that if laws were enacted “guaranteeing” that every child must achieve a politically determined level of achievement, all children would be successful. But, the gap still exists.

Politicians even justified their intrusion into how students could or couldn’t be disciplined by saying that the unfair application of punishments was robbing certain students of opportunities, and if that was fixed, the achievement gap would be eliminated. But, the gap still exists.

These are but a few of the hundreds of times we were promised that a law would fix the achievement gap problem. But, the gap still exists. In other words, they lied. Every. Single. Time.

They lied, because none of these factors are primarily responsible for the gap.

One of their most egregious lies has been that the lack of competition in public education has been the culprit. People pushing this narrative actually pretended as if competition didn’t already exist. But, of course, it did through private and home school options, not to mention other opportunities, such as boarding schools. But, that fact interfered with their narrative, so they ignored it.

We were told that just a little more competition would generate new, more successful learning environments in which kids who were failing could flourish. It would also, we were assured, force the public schools to improve.

Early on, this expansion of competition was in the form of charter schools. Politicians told us kids deserved them, because they would no longer be “trapped” in poor public schools. Of course, they failed to mention that many of these charter schools were owned by large campaign contributors who were becoming quite wealthy on the backs of our neediest kids.

These same politicians remained strangely silent when the test data that they worship clearly showed that kids were often leaving higher performing public schools to attend lower performing charter schools. In other words, what they said would happen wasn’t happening.

But, ignoring that fact, politicians continued to expand school choice options to allow parents to use tax dollars to attend private schools. This was done through the Education Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) Program. The Ohio Department of Education web site claims that EdChoice “provides students from underperforming public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools.”

The problem with this justification is that it isn’t true. The criteria for “underperforming” is written in such a way that even the highest performing public schools can be defined as such. (See here also.) In other words, the law allows parents to use tax dollars to fund their children’s private school education while “escaping” very high performing schools. This exact scenario has occurred in one of the top scoring school districts in the state, the Solon Schools.

When their scam was exposed, Senate Education Chair Peggy Lehner followed the normal, hypocritical political script by demonstrating faux consternation and surprise. She even proclaimed that it is “crazy” that high performing schools are being “dinged” by the very law she and her cronies have authored.

The rest of us are supposed to naively believe that this dismantling of public education through lies and deception wasn’t the plan all along.

Because that’s just how stupid they think we are.

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Tom Dunn

Tom Dunn is a retired teacher, principal, and superintendent from Ohio. From 1977 to 1993, Dunn was an intervention teacher with Troy City Schools (TCS); in 1994 he became a principal for five years, at which time he became TCS director of communications, technology, and secondary curriculum for the next six years. Then, from 2005 to 2010, Dunn became TCS superintendent, followed by eight years as Miami County (Ohio) Education Service Center superintendent until his retirement in August 2018.

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Interested in scheduling Mercedes Schneider for a speaking engagement? Click here.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

2 Comments
  1. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    The closures of schools based on the subscores of the state report cards is absurd, as is the continued use of value added measures of “ growth.” Ohio Republicans and the ultra right wing Thomas Fordham Institute have no desire to fund public schools regardless of their performance. They want public dollars to subsidize private and religious schools and home schooling,no regulations. EdChoice has joined other likeminded groups is supporting the Supreme Court case that will test the voucher program in Montana.

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  1. Mandates that are bad for kids – Teachersfly

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