Rhetoric vs. Reality – Where is the Truth About Educational Choice?

By Rabbi Eric ‘Yitz’ Frank

Debate over educational choice continues in Ohio and around the country, but misconceptions and even misinformation are clouding the discussion. 

While everyone will have their own opinion, any conclusion should be based in reality.  Those who oppose school choice in our state have made repeated statements that do not reflect the facts with regard to educational choice.

Claims that school choice creates segregation in Ohio education are not substantiated by the actual numbers.  A recent study of enrollment shows that diversity across all educational options in Ohio has not only increased but enrollment numbers in private schools closely mirror the numbers in public school districts.  The exception would be in charter/community schools where diversity numbers are much higher than other school options.  https://reports.education.ohio.gov/overview

Scholarship programs are not funded at the expense of public schools.  Ohio’s educational options are funded separately.  The Fair Funding Act (HB110), passed in 2021 protects public school budgets and continues to be phased in with the passage of Ohio’s recent biennial budget (HB33) in July 2023.  The legislation includes the continued collection of property taxes that are designated to the local public school districts, regardless of student enrollment numbers for that district. For more information on HB 33, visit https://www.lsc.ohio.gov/budget/135/main-operating-budget/as-enacted

Since 2006, Ohio public school enrollment has declined by over 10%, and in that time, Ohio has continued to increase funding for public schools, while increasing school choice opportunities for families. We as a state have demonstrated we can and must do both.

In order to accept scholarships, private schools must be chartered through the state.  Anyone is able to go to the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce website to view the list of requirements private schools must complete which include; non-discrimination policies, a review of staff and their qualifications, background checks for all employees, reporting of student testing, maintaining student attendance, as well as building safety standards and inspections.  Chartered, non-public schools must abide by Ohio’s Operating Standards in order to maintain their charter. https://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Ohio-Education-Options/Private-Schools/Receiving-a-Charter

Private schools face an additional level of accountability to the families whose children attend their schools.  If a family is unhappy they can simply move their student (and dollars) to another school.  The same cannot be said if a family is unhappy with their local public schools.

Low income families are able to access a private education for their students with an EdChoice scholarship.  What most people don’t realize is that school providers MUST waive the difference between the school’s tuition and the scholarship for students whose household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). 

Any discussion about school choice should start with what is best for Ohio’s students.  While the majority of families in Ohio choose their public schools, some students need an alternative educational path in order to thrive.  When Ohio families are empowered to make the educational choice that best fits the needs of their children, it is a win for Ohio.

Rabbi Eric “Yitz” Frank serves as President of School Choice Ohio and as the executive director of Agudath Israel of Ohio since 2013. He serves as a liaison to the Ohio Department of Education on behalf of Jewish day schools. Rabbi Frank was previously appointed by the Ohio Senate to serve on the Non Public School Graduation Requirements Advisory Committee and is a member of Governor DeWine’s School Safety Working Group.  He also serves as the President of the Ohio Council for American Private Education and does government relations and policy work at the federal level related to the National School Lunch Program, ESEA, IDEA, and other related issues.

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