As ThinkProgress previously reported, conservative state legislators across the country are cutting budgets for public education while increasing taxpayer money for private schools in the form of school vouchers, essentially shifting taxpayer funds from public schools to private schools.
Thanks to changes in the business tax and Kasich’s redirecting of funds over the past year, Ohio school districts will have a billion dollars less in state funding ($1.8 billion if the loss of stimulus dollars is included in the calculation). The Ohio Education Association estimates that there will be $2.9 billion less in school funding over the next two fiscal years. But on Thursday, the Ohio House Education Committee passed House Bill 136 (HB136), which would consolidate and expand many of the state’s voucher scholarships for private schools in a program called Parental Choice and Taxpayer Savings (PACT). The new vouchers would be available to “any student in any district whose family makes less than $95,000.”
Policy Matters Ohio’s Piet van Lier estimates that HB 136 would open up as much as $134 million in taxpayer funds for private schools, if current growth trends in the school voucher programs continue:
According to state foundation settlement reports, just over $71.6 million was deducted from district payments for vouchers in Fiscal Year 2010, and an estimated $79.6 million will be deducted in FY11. Ohio Department of Education figures show that EdChoice, now in its 5th year, has continued to grow — by 13 percent this school year. Policy Matters conducted an analysis assuming 10 percent growth over FY11 levels during the first year with PACT and 20 percent growth the second year — conservative estimates, given recent growth and the expanded eligibility proposed in HB 136. Under this scenario, districts would see voucher deductions of an additional $7.5 million in FY12 and $30 million in FY13, compared to FY11 participation. If PACT were to reach the 60,000 voucher cap proposed in the Kasich administration’s budget, the 220 percent increase over FY11 levels would mean a price tag on the order of $143 million in additional spending on regular education vouchers within a relatively short time frame.
Van Lier emphasized to ThinkProgress that predicting the final cost of the program would be difficult because it largely depends on the rate of growth in participation in the program. Because HB 136 would remove most barriers that existed to access to school vouchers that existed prior to its passage, the amount of money expended could actually be much higher. The bill’s backers have not announced when they plan to bring the bill to the full floor of the state House for a vote.