COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio parents dissatisfied with their children’s public school education could opt into a program allowing them to use state dollars to send their children to private schools or to take advantage of other educational expenses, under a GOP-backed bill in the House.
The legislation, known as “backpack” funding because money follows children no matter what school they attend, is a kids first approach to education, bill sponsor Rep. Riordan McClain, a Republican from Upper Sandusky, told the House Finance Committee Tuesday.
The legislation is not anti-public school, added bill co-sponsor Rep. Marilyn John, a Shelby Republican. “It is a pro-child, pro-parent, pro-family bill which empowers parents and families to make a choice that is in the best interest of their child,” John testified.
The program would be optional, but parents who choose it would have $5,500 in state funding per K-8 student and $7,500 per 9-12 student placed in an educational savings account managed by the state Treasurer’s Office.
Debate over the bill comes months after the Legislature approved a new school-funding plan years in the making meant to bring more reliability to annual school funding payments to districts. It also follows a January lawsuit saying the existing voucher program is creating an unconstitutional system of separately funded private education.
Democrats say the backpack bill harms already challenged public schools and question how it would align with the new school-funding plan.