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Privatizing Education - Focus for Advocacy

Updated: Feb 27

Updated March 1, 2024

After years of piecemeal legislation to extend public funding of private education, in 2023 the legislature used the biennial budget to make vouchers universal.  Private education at public expense is now an option for everyone.  It is an entitlement.

Despite this profound change, new initiatives have already been offered in the 2024 legislative session to increase public spending on private schools. 

  • HB 339 would extend vouchers to non-chartered nonpublic schools.  

  • Senator Matt Huffman and the Buckeye Institute have proposed that the school facilities funds within HB 2, the capital improvements budget, be opened to private schools.

Restraint will be difficult given the supermajority commitment to private education, and the reality that full funding of the public system does not exist and is an important negotiating point used to expand privatization.

Continued advocacy is essential. 

Public education needs vigilant advocates who will support strong public schools, make private education more accountable, and resist continue pressure to expand public spending on options that are not mandated by the Ohio Constitution.

Why LWVO Supports A Strong System of Public Education

LWVO support for public schools and opposition to privatizing education are grounded in these arguments: 

  • Our system of public education is essential to self-governance. It’s a constitutional obligation. 

  • A strong public system benefits the community as well as the individual, and serves the common good. 

  • Public education is the only K-12 option that guarantees that all students are included and their rights are protected, and it is accessible everywhere. 

  • A strong public education system is the only way to ensure that all students have equal access to quality education that will prepare them for citizenship and success in the 21st century.  

  • Public schools are a reliable and accountable education resource, that strengthens communities and unites people in common purpose.

  • Public education, unlike private education, protects the public interest because it demands transparency in decision making and financial matters, and is accountable to the public.

Problems with Private Education

  • Because private schools decide who is admitted, they control who has access to public funds. The public should make that decision.

  • Private education is not equally available.

  • While private schools are required to prohibit racial discrimination, there are no other limits on admission decisions or treatment of students or staff, allowing for other forms of enrollment and staffing discrimination.

  • Private schools are allowed to promote religion. When funded by the public it violates the foundational commitment to the separation of church and state. 

  • There is no evidence that students who leave a public school perform better in a private school.

  • Vouchers put public schools in competition with private schools for public resources and students. Public and private education operate by completely different rules creating an uneven playing field and making it difficult for anyone to make an informed choice. 

  • If vouchers encourage students to leave a public school it reduces funds for those who remain, and makes it harder to offer a robust curriculum.

  • Spending public funds on unaccountable private options makes choice a higher priority than ensuring that public schools have the financial resources needed to achieve excellence and fulfill their mission: educating future citizens.

  • Privatizing education puts the personal preferences of a minority in direct competition with meeting the needs of the majority. 

What You Can Do

There are many advocacy tools in our toolbox. We need to make use of all of them, especially in showing our support for public schools and highlighting the many ways they are exceling in our communities.

Tools to use as individuals:

  • Attend regular school board meetings, school committees, and task forces to learn what is happening (wear supportive buttons and t-shirts when possible)

  • Offer supportive comments at school board meetings – some school boards are starting to discuss including written comments with minutes

  • Write LTEs and Guest Columns

  • Email comments in support of public education and the full funding of public education on a regular basis to your legislators

  • Use of personal stories

  • Meetings with legislators

Tools for groups:

  • Get Out The Vote to promote civic engagement in elections 

  • Forums and programs that educate communities about the importance of public schools, highlighting programs and teachers

  • Build a network and work with residents and schools to create inclusive, affirming policies that promote student wellness and academic success

  • Reach out and build meaningful relationships with school boards, administration, educators, staff, and community stakeholders – arrange group meetings to discuss issues and policies

Be a positive force for public education in your community, in the media, and with state lawmakers. Public schools have strengths that need recognition. 

  • They prepare future generations for self-governance

  • Everyone has a stake in the outcome

  • Enrollment is open to all

  • They are available in every community and a resource to that community

  • They benefit individuals and the common good

  • They are democratically governed, accountable to the public and transparent.

  • Funding and regulations promote fairness, quality, equal opportunity and equity

Demystify the idea that private is better and that choice is a sufficient reason to abandon the common good. Remember “choice” has limits:

  • Private schools not parents pick students

  • Vouchers are an income transfer not freedom

  • Informed choice is impossible without transparency or accountability

  • Promoting religion is a priority and not a taxpayer responsibility

  • Taxpayers are funding individual rights not the common good

  • Public schools and private schools compete for funds and divide communities

  • Public schools are one of the few places where we meet as a public and promote our common interest. This strengthens our communities and democracy.

Advocate for full funding of public education.

Be vigilant about new proposals to expand privatized education

Demand that lawmakers regulate private schools that receive public funds so they play by the same rules as private schools and are accountable.  

Demand that lawmakers provide evidence that they are funding quality choices 

Collect stories about side effects of choice

Know the legislative candidates and support those who understand why public education matters and why privatizing education is a problem.

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