Columbiana BOE concerned about funding changes

COLUMBIANA – The Board of Education is concerned about proposed changes in Ohio school funding.

State Representative John McClain introduced House Bill 290 to the Ohio Legislature increasing access to “EdChoice” –known to provide vouchers to students attending low-performing public schools.

The proposed plan is contradictory to the Fair School Funding proposal led by representatives Robert R. Cupp and John Patterson in April. The Fair School Funding proposal addressed English language learners, gifted students and special education.

Fair School Funding increased financial transparency and recommended the Ohio Department of Education and Auditor of State establish a work group to recommend improvements in financial reporting.

Columbiana Superintendent Don Mook said Fair School Funding would have relied on state funds for private schools instead of removing money from local school districts.

“That’s huge, that in and of itself is going to eliminate the drain of local dollars coming out of our district,” he said.

Kelly Williamson, Legislative Liaison for Columbiana Board of Education, is concerned about the bill. She feels current funding for public schools is already unconstitutional. Transferring funds from public schools to charters that are not held to the same standard fails to increase opportunities for students.

“So those charter schools and those private schools they don’t have any accountability, they don’t have to take those state tests” she said. “There’s no public accountability for them at all except for what they choose to tell you.”

Schools would eventually be “annihilated” she explained.

“My whole problem is, it’s really not about providing a fair good education for everybody when you know darn well those public schools that are in the red, that are already financially crippled,” she said.

Williamson said if private schools take funds from public school districts then the standards need to be equal.

“If the tax dollars of every tax-paying citizen are going to fund their education, then we have to be on that same playing field,” she said.

Williamson said HB290 falls short of providing the intended equal opportunity public schools were established to do.

Vouchers don’t create competition if the standards of education are not the same and are more likely to promote manipulation according to Williamson.

She is concerned about students not having the proper supports to take advantage of educational opportunities.

“Some of these families are working as hard as they can, or they have just not been given the information,” Williamson said. “You think those people are going to be told? If they’re not active, are they going to be sought out and told this?”

Williamson is encouraging residents to write or reach out to the local state congressmen telling them to vote “no” on HB290.


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