At the American Federation for Children’s Policy Summit in Washington D.C., a pair of Ohio lawmakers participated in a panel discussion, The Fight for Educational Choice in State Capitols. Ohio Representatives Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland) and Anne Gonzales (R- Gahanna) both shared stories about why they became advocates for school choice and also discussed what is currently happening in Ohio to ensure that more parents have the opportunity to choose the school that is the best fit for their child.
Representative Patmon at first was a staunch opponent of school choice. He became a proponent, however, after witnessing the decline of the Cleveland Municipal School District in the early 90’s as a member of Cleveland City Council. As a member of city council, he worked with the Ohio legislature to give the mayor’s office control of the school district and to create the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program.
Since joining the Ohio General Assembly in 2011, Representative Patmon has helped to pass legislation to eliminate the Cleveland Scholarship’s parent co-pay, an original part of the program, and is currently a joint-sponsor of legislation that would create a Tax Credit Scholarship Program.
Representative Gonzales became a school choice supporter after her son endured bullying at school. She grew fed up with her well-performing public school when the school administrators failed to address the bullying and decided to withdraw her son from the school because of it. She then chose to enroll him in a private school.
Representative Gonzales said she was lucky that her family could make the decision on their own to send their son to private school, because many families out there do not have the means to make a similar decision. She joined the Ohio House in 2011 and, this past spring, joined others in support of the passage of the proposed income-based scholarship.
Overall, it was refreshing to hear from lawmakers across the nation, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, who all shared the common belief that school choice should not be a partisan issue. School choice should be about doing what is right for students everywhere and giving parents the means to choose the education that is the best fit for their students’ unique learning needs.