Voucher expansion pressure

There's some good news being reported today. It appears Columbus lawmakers have listened to the out-pouring of dissent at a number of the Governor's education policy proposals, and are considering changes and delays

Republican leaders in the Senate plan to slow down Gov. John Kasich’s initiatives for holding back third-graders who aren’t proficient in reading and for a tougher report-card rating system for schools and districts.

Under the Senate plan, new report cards would be issued by Sept. 1, 2013, for the 2012-13 school year, not this summer for the current school year. And the so-called reading guarantee would start in the 2013-14 school year, instead of this fall.
School district officials, teachers unions and state education groups have urged lawmakers to hold off on the plan so they can better inform parents and teachers of the coming changes.

Under the amendment, a new report-card rating system planned for this school year would be put off, and a task force would be established to provide recommendations to lawmakers by Oct. 1 about the new letter-grade rating system.

The new school rating proposal had come under specific attack, from many diverse groups, as it would have lowered the ratings on the majority of Ohio's schools. One of the unintended consequences of this would have been to expand the geographic eligibility of the state's private school voucher program

The EdChoice program could also see a significant change not only in the number of schools and students eligible for a voucher, but also where these schools are located under the newly proposed A-F system. Under the proposed A-F system more schools would be rated D and F, resulting in an increase in the number of eligible schools. Using performance data from 2010-11 the Ohio Department of Education ran a simulation to demonstrate how schools might fare under the new system (you can read more about the proposed A-F system here). Using that data 273 schools and approximately 105,000 students would now be eligible for the EdChoice program. A majority of eligible schools still remain in Big 8 districts but a couple of new districts such as Hamilton City and South Western City would now have eligible schools on the list under the new A-F system.

With the state's voucher program massively undersubscribed, expanding the geographic availability would be a boon to the profiteers and their advocates. Not something to be considered while there is a push for greater accountability for private schools that take tax payer funded vouchers.

Given the recent news of the Dragonfly Autism school suddenly shuttering its doors, there's never been a more urgent need for oversight and accountability of these types of schools

Dragonfly Academy, a local private school for autistic children, unexpectedly closed its doors Thursday morning amid allegations from parents that promised services were not being provided.

Parents were notified via text message from the school’s executive director, Brianne Bixby-Nightingale, at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday that the school would be closed Thursday and today for “restructuring,” several parents confirmed.

Dragonfly’s six-member board of directors apparently resigned last month.
Among the parents’ claims are that the school failed to provide required therapies and that it did not have enough qualified staff.

Gallaway confirmed Thursday that both of the school’s intervention specialists had quit.

Former Governor Ted Strickland recently blasted the expansion of Ohio's voucher program Strickland said Ohio's voucher program, which allows students in struggling districts to receive funding to attend private schools, is damaging the quality of Ohio public education.

"Vouchers simply is a way to enter into a private situation where the majority of our students are left behind and a few students may be able to benefit using public tax dollars and I think that's wrong and it's harmful to society," Strickland said.

It's good that lawmakers are now slowing down these corporate reforms and listening to stakeholders. We can only hope this proposed task force takes a long hard look at some of the unintended consequences of the Governor's ideas that might harm public education by increasing further the amount of unaccountable privatization.