In Ohio, legislators have introduced legislation to give parents that educational choice for their children.
House Bill 290, known as the Backpack Bill, would create educational savings accounts (ESA) for students when their parents opt in to the program. According to the Ohio Christian Education Network, which supports the legislation,
The Backpack Bill takes away the monopoly from public schools and offers families a choice for the education that will best meet the needs of their children. This will also force the public schools to be more responsive to the needs and concerns of the parents and community.
The Ohio Christian Education Network is one of several associations sponsored by the Center for Christian Virtue (CCV), a Family Policy Council allied with Focus on the Family. CCV President Aaron Baer told us that even before the loss of time in school due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, many students were struggling.
He said, “The country is finally having an honest conversation about the public education system. In our inner cities, too many children are falling behind academically, and across the board, leftist political ideologies have infiltrated the classroom.”
With the Backpack Bill, funding follows students, and gives parents more options. Baer told us that public schools are not always held responsible for poor educational outcomes, adding, “But when you tie state funding to the child, and make every child eligible for a taxpayer funded scholarship like the Backpack Bill does, you bring the accountability and innovative thinking our schools are desperately needing.”
Under HB 290, Ohio kindergarteners through 8th graders would receive $5,500 ESAs, while 9th through 12th graders would receive $7,500 ESAs. The funds follow the students to the school they attend, whether public, charter or private, or the money could be used for educational expenses for homeschooling.
Public schools in Ohio currently spend about $12,200 per pupil, from state and local allocations. When students opt out of public education, taking their $5,500 or $7,500 ESA to their new school or using it for homeschooling resources, public schools keep the rest of the allocation. So money spent per pupil could actually increase in public schools across the state.
The recent poll from RealClear Opinion Research showing such high support for educational options surveyed over 2,000 registered voters in early February 2022. Participants were asked:
School choice gives parents the right to use the tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs. Generally speaking, would you say you support or oppose the concept of school choice?
The poll separated out different groups of people – Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Democrat, Republican or Independent – and found that all groups, by large margins, wanted parents to make the decision about where the children attend school.
The poll is in line with many others that show tremendous support for school choice. AFC lists research from three different groups, Beck Research, RealClear Opinion and Mason-Dixon, all showing consistent, heavy support for school choice every year since 2015.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, support for school choice jumped 9% among parents with kindergarten through 12th grade students in public schools, from 67% to 76%, AFC reported.
When asked where they would like to send their children, only 32% of parents choose public schools, while 68% choose public charter schools, virtual schooling, private religious schools, private non-religious schools or home schooling.
Having more school options means public schools are competing for education spending, and competition generally leads to better products all around – in this case, better education for students.
American Federation for Children CEO Tommy Schultz said of the huge support for school choice, “These poll numbers are stunning. The past two years have exposed to the world what many in the parental choice movement have known for decades: no single educational environment is right for every child.”
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