July 17, 2023
The New State Budget’s Impacts on Public Education
Every two years, Ohio's Governor proposes a state budget for the legislature to consider and change. The State budget is the largest statewide plan to delegate funding toward all of the public resources that benefit our communities. One of the biggest services the State budget supports is public K-12 education. After a brief extension of the June 30th deadline, the Ohio House and Senate finally passed a two-year state budget recently signed by Governor Mike DeWine. Several disputed measures on this bill concerned changes to public education that impact all public schools in Cleveland. This is an overview of what some of these measures were and how they might influence the future of public education in Cleveland.
The first outcome of the state budget is an increase in statewide school funding to $10.5 billion yearly. This increase comes after a decades-long dispute regarding the fairness of previous primarily property-tax-based funding methods, which left children in poorer neighborhoods at a disadvantage because they had less local revenue to contribute to their schools. This explanation is simplified, but generally, the all-around increase in state revenue will continue to level the playing field, giving schools more resources to improve their performance and ultimately the education our children receive.
The next addition to the budget that will affect education is an expansion of the private school voucher program, better known as EdChoice. The controversial EdChoice program is a statewide expansion of Cleveland's 1996 school voucher program. It initially allowed students from public schools deemed "failing" by the state to attend participating private schools. This budget will expand it to be accessible to all families in Ohio below a certain household income. This provision will increase the funding of this program to $2 billion, and make it so that all families can apply for private school vouchers, not just ones below a certain income level. This expansion of the EdChoice voucher program will remove all income barriers. However, families with incomes over $135,000 for a family of four will receive a smaller stipend on a sliding scale. As well as EdChoice, Ohio has a voucher program for students with special needs, granting them scholarships to participating schools that may better meet their needs than a traditional public-school setting.
The EdChoice program remains highly controversial. Its theoretical purpose of giving low-income families expanded options is commendable, but it's unclear whether its use in practice will serve this goal. Many advocates in the education field argue that simply giving more funding to public schools in the first place would ensure that all families have public access to quality education right in their neighborhood, and wouldn't need to seek out alternatives. The expansion of the EdChoice program does not include additional oversight of the recipient private school either. A larger concern for many is that while public schools are scored and rated based on their academic outcomes, there is no similar rating or scoring associated with the influx of public funds these schools will receive; leaving parents/caregivers without a clear path to making informed school decisions.
So, while there are competing opinions about the wins and losses on this year's state budget, what is clear is that education is a highly salient issue, and we must keep it on the minds of politicians and all public decision-makers.
Although it was ultimately removed from the final version, SB 83 was included in one of the draft versions of the budget as it made its way through the legislative process. The "Enact Higher Education Act" would change what is able to be taught in higher education in both Cleveland and all public universities in Ohio. It would also ban cultural affinity groups within schools, as well as teachers’ unions in higher education, and make US history courses mandatory. This bill joins a plethora of largely right-wing attacks on "progressive" education, and while it would not have necessarily impacted public elementary and high schools, its passing would set an undeniable stance against certain facets of education, many of which honor minority students who already have challenges in these spaces. This provision was removed from the budget, but still awaits a vote in the Ohio House, and if it passes there, would be one step closer to going into effect. SB 83 aims to limit education and is not written with the best interests of students in mind. As parents, teachers, and advocates for education, it is important to stay informed on the progress of this bill and what it stands for.
If you're looking for more information on how to decide on school choice for you or someone you know, you can visit the Cleveland Transformation Alliance's website. Check out our School Finder Tool, an online search guide that matches families with their best school options based on their individual needs. Additionally, see the Family Cafe tab for archives of our latest events on pertinent issues. We have an upcoming Cafe on July 28th that will teach all new and returning families about public school options in Cleveland and how to navigate the numerous options. Join us at Hough Library to celebrate summer and start preparing for the fall with fun activities, food trucks, and the chance to connect with other families.
Lastly, I challenge everyone, whether you are a parent, student, or just a community member, to stay informed on current events affecting education in Ohio. Here at the Cleveland Transformation Alliance we believe in quality schools for all children, and our whole community plays a part in advocating for that.
Blog post written by Kendal Harris, CTA Summer 2023 Intern
Want to Learn More? Here's a brief list of resources from local reporters and education advocates. Ohio Budget 101 - Policy Matters Ohio All About Ohio's 2-Year Operating Budget - Ideastream Public Media Ohio School Voucher Overview - Ohio Education Policy Institute More About Ohio-s EdChoice Voucher Program - Cleveland.com Ohio Education Budget - Ohio Capital Journal