HB136 hits agenda: Wapak Schools expected to oppose bill

Wapakoneta City Schools plan to join other districts from around the state in officially voicing its opposition to a bill which would transfer public money to support private education.
Wapakoneta Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said on their agenda for Tuesday’s board meeting is approval of a resolution opposing House Bill 136. St. Marys City Schools also recently approved a similar resolution. The meeting starts at 7 p.m.
Horner described the bill as “horrible,” with “problems written all over it.”
The state Legislature proposed expanding the school voucher system across Ohio with a Parental Choice and Taxpayer Savings Scholarship (PACT) voucher program, allowing all students in Ohio in kindergarten through 12th-grades to receive vouchers to attend nonpublic schools, provided their families make less than $95,000 a year. The bill was introduced by state Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima.
The scholarships would be financed by counting scholarship students in the enrollments of their residential school districts for state funding purposes and then deducting amounts from the district’s state education aid, according to bill analysis by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.
Current law stipulates that vouchers to attend non-public schools are only available to students living in areas where the public schools are not achieving as they should be year after year on state testing.
Students already enrolled in non-public schools would be eligible for the vouchers and families could “bank the excess,” if their school’s tuition is less than the voucher amount and save it for college tuition or textbooks.
Availability of the money would be phased in during a four year period with proposed scholarship amounts ranging from $2,282 to $4,563, depending on the family’s federal adjusted gross income for the preceding tax year.
“We are totally against the bill,” Horner told the Wapakoneta Daily News.
He said typically he calls legislators about concerns and has found that to be more responsive than passing counter resolutions but this was a situation where the district administrators wanted to make a stand publicly.
Horner said they are opposed to the bill because it takes money away from public education and gives it to private education.
“I have no problem with open competition but the problem with this is they do not have to follow all the same rules and they are using public money to do it,” Horner said. “I’m all for choices, but make the rules consistent if you’re dealing with public dollars.”
Horner said the bill, which particularly promotes parochial schools, does not require the private schools, where public money is funneled, to take all students, to give state assessment tests, or to serve special needs students. It also seems to be a clear violation of the separation of church and state.
“Private schools are private schools for a reason, because they want to do something different than public schools,” Horner said. “You don’t give public school money to private schools and then let them play by different rules.”