Now that the political scam surrounding the state’s EdChoice Scholarship Program has been exposed to the public for what it really is, which is a political grab for tax dollars to fund private education, Ohio’s legislators are scrambling to “fix” the program.
EdChoice was originally written under the pretense that its implementation was intended to allow students to “escape” poorly performing public schools to attend private schools. But, now that scholarships are being offered to students who reside in very high performing public school districts, it has become apparent that the law was sold to the public under a false premise.
In simpler terms, our legislators lied to us to get what they wanted … again.
“Fixing” laws that were enacted by deceit is a time honored political tradition, so their response to being exposed as liars is always predictable. Senator Peggy Lehner, chair of the Senate Education Committee, has reacted as if she is shocked by the scam, which is entirely in character for her. She has played the role of the confused legislator more times than one can count when fraudulent education legislation has been exposed. The fact that she can be confused so regularly about education legislation is itself confusing in that she is chair of the education committee. As such, one would think she might have her finger on the pulse of the ramifications of education legislation at least once.
But, that is apparently too much to ask.
Now that it has been publicly exposed that the school choice bill is not as sold (legislators were previously well aware of it), they are under pressure to “fix” it before next year’s dollars are doled out, which is within the next month. Lehner has expressed concern that altering a major policy bill under short notice causes her “grave concern.” She even said, “I think we are at great risk of a solution that in the long run is not good for the children of this state.”
As if that is ever their concern.
Since the original bill was not created under some artificial deadline, history tells us that incompetence is a much bigger factor in poorly written legislation than arbitrary deadlines.
While Senator Lehner played her befuddled role perfectly, Senator Matt Huffman from Lima responded in a different manner. You might remember Senator Huffman as the legislator who just a few short years ago introduced what was touted as a school deregulation bill. This was his effort to convince Ohioans that he and some of his buddies were actually interested in reducing the number of school regulations.
Of course, he did this while Ohio’s lawmakers continued to introduce and pass regulations governing schools, and he is front and center in rewriting this bill. In other words, his “deregulation” bill was a sick joke.
But, I digress. Instead of exhibiting fake surprise or consternation or continuing the charade that this was ever about school quality, Senator Huffman has actually admitted that the real reason the bill was implemented in the first place was to funnel tax dollars into the pockets of parents who want their children to have a private education. Of course, he can afford to be forthright now, since the bill is already in place.
Now, I’m as big a believer in school choice as Senator Huffman is. I believe parents have the right to educate their children wherever they see fit. However, unlike him, I do not believe it is my responsibility to fund those choices. This use of tax dollars to fund a private entity debate is not confined only to the world of education. There are many other examples where public funds could be used to fund private entities for Ohio’s citizens, but legislators would never consider opening that can of worms in those cases. Only with education.
Why is that?
You see, Ohio’s legislators might be dishonest, but they aren’t stupid. They were well aware that the majority of the public would not have approved of the original legislation if it appeared lawmakers had randomly decided to take our tax dollars and fund private schools. But, they knew if they could just convince us that they were doing it to allow kids to “escape” horrible environments, the idea would be much easier to sell.
So, they lied to us.
It didn’t really matter if it was true. They knew if they could get the law on the books, even if done so under false pretenses, they could more easily change the rules once it was in place. And, voila, that is exactly what they are doing.
If nothing else, they are as predictable as they are dishonest.
With the need for deceit now behind them, Senator Huffman can now admit the real reason for implementing EdChoice has nothing to do with allowing students to “escape” poor schools, as they originally said, but everything to do with allowing parents who want to send their children to private schools to use tax dollars to help fund their personal decision, depending on their family income.
In other words, it has never been about quality.
Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.