Friday, December 16, 2011
$10 MILLION, $6 MILLION? THE HIT THAT STARK COUNTY (CANTON CITY) SCHOOLS TO TAKE IF HB 136 (THE "VOUCHER" EXPANSION BILL) PASSES
H.B. No. 136 (Parental Choice and Taxpayer Savings Scholarship Program - PACT) introduced by Republican state Representative Mark Huffman of Lima, Ohio and a graduate of Lima Central High School which stands to be a beneficiary, as do all parochial/private schools, of the legislation he is, as majority leader of the House Republican Caucus, shepherding through the Ohio General Assembly.
As it now stands, according to Ohio School Board Association (OASBO) and the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) see it, PACT "is a new entitlement program that subsidizes private school tuition with no accountability for taxpayer dollars.
OASBO and BASA claim that "Ohio ha[s] the most voucher programs of any state in the nation."
School districts throughout Ohio are busy passing resolutions opposing HB 136. Over 300 hundred of Ohio's 614 districts have passed such resolutions.
Here is a resolution by the Tuslaw Board of Education which is typical of what the other 300 plus districts have passed.
Stark County Educational Services Center (SCESC) Superintendent Larry Morgan (yours truly's spouse is president of SCESC board) tells The Report that Stark County schools stand to lose $10 million annually whereas Canton City stands to lose $6 million if HB 136 (PACT) passes.
One Stark County school district that will suffer if PACT gets passed will be the Tuslaw schools. Tuslaw's losses could be anywhere from $67,500 to $450,00 depending how many students the legislation allows to participate in the voucher program.
Tuslaw Superintendent Al Osler told The Report that even $67,500 is no little amount for Tuslaw and amendments to the bill limiting losses for now is exactly what one should expect. For the idea is now to "get the foot in door" in just getting the bill passed and then voucher expansion advocates would be to come back in successive years to increase the number of eligible students.
Right now if Tuslaw was maxed out on the total number of its residents who attend parochial/private schools, which is now at 100; then Tuslaw would take a $450,000 hit.
The SCPR agrees with Osler that over the longer haul, the number of eligible students will certainly increase as legislators get inundated with complaining parents of excluded students and the pressure will be such that eventually all will be made eligible.
Such would be a convenient political cover for doctrinaire (mostly, but not exclusively, Republicans) voucher proponents who as a matter of political philosophy are hellbent to do what they can to undermine public education which they view as a lost cause.
Where do Stark County legislators stand on HB 136?
Christina Hagan (Republican - Marlboro - the 50th House District) is definitely for the bill. She has told Morgan as much in conversations they have had earlier this month. Moreover, the SCPR's take on her is that she will do whatever she is told by Republican Speaker of the House Billy Batchhelder.
Stephen Slesnick (Democrat - Canton - the 52nd House District) has to be against the bill. Canton to take a $6 million hit because of the bill. How could he vote any other way?
Kirk Schuring (Republican - Jackson Township - the 51st House District) is likely to vote yes in the opinion of the SCPR. Schuring likes to make the likes of Morgan think he's going to vote their way, but in the end he almost always bends to Republican political pressure to vote the party line.
Scott Oelslager (Republican - Plain Township - the 29th Senate District) is the most likely to vote no among the Republican side of the Stark County legislative delegation. Here is a copy of a letter he sent to Superintendent Morgan: