Ohio Republicans continue to play the distraction game
Ok. So now we’ve got House Bill 616 — Ohio’s version of the “Don’t Say Gay” Florida bill. Only it’s worse. Because it’s also got some of the worst components of the “Divisive Concepts” House Bill 327 that had all but died recently.
This new bill is sponsored by Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Loveland, (yes, THAT Jean Schmidt who famously lied about what former State Rep. and Marine Danny Bubp told her while attacking Vietnam War hero and Pennsylvania Democrat Jack Murtha in 2005) and state Rep. Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta.
What’s it do? Simple. It tells teachers what to teach and punishes them for doing so, including losing their licenses and eliminating funding from schools.
Which brings me to the topic of this article. All of these divisive bills Republicans are authoring around the country are meant to do one thing: distract voters from the real agenda — starving our country’s public schools of the precious resources our kids need to thrive.
How do I know this?
Last year, led by Ohio’s Republican Speaker of the House, the Fair School Funding Plan was introduced as House Bill 1 — ostensibly designating the overhaul of the state’s school funding system as the top legislative priority of the Republican majority in the House. All told, nearly 2/3 of the Ohio House co-sponsored the legislation (which was eventually incorporated into the larger state budget bill and became law for now). Wanna guess whether Schmidt or Loychik sponsored it?
You’re right. They didn’t.
For more than 25 years, Ohio’s had an unconstitutional school funding system that hasn’t accurately calculated what kids need and has required local property taxpayers to foot far too much of the bill. Ohio voters know this. Because they’ve faced more than 10,000 school levies since the 1980s.
So instead of funding education, what have Ohio Republicans done?
First it was “school choice”. So they dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into charter schools that ripped off taxpayers at rates corrupt politicians could only dream of doing. Everyone’s fond of saying that the First Energy/House Bill 6 scandal where First Energy bribed House Speaker Larry Householder for $60 million was the largest political scandal in the state’s history.
Not even close.
The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) scandal — a school run by Republican super donor Bill Lager — dwarfed First Energy in size and scope. Since the school’s founding in 2000, Ohio regulators knew that ECOT was charging the state for educating kids it never had. Yet the legislature and state officials did nothing about it. So for nearly 20 years, Lager’s “school” got paid hundreds of millions of tax dollars to educate kids they couldn’t prove actually took a single class at the school. My best conservative estimate is about $250 million was paid to the school for kids that never went there. And it’s probably way more than that.
Then the squirrel was “accountability”. So for nearly a decade, the state said the problem wasn’t money, it was standards, or teachers, or literally anything but money that led to schools struggling. So the state kept changing tests on schools. And accountability systems. All to make it look like schools were “failing” (even though testing advocates admitted that the new tests were designed to be so hard that only a small fraction of kids would pass). So it was teachers’ faults, or schools’ faults, or anyone’s fault but their own to actually provide the resources necessary for every kid to succeed regardless of where they live.
Now it’s “divisive concepts” or whatever. Again, they’re saying the issue is teachers or whatever. So let’s punish them. But whatever you do. For God’s sake. Don’t blame us!
Folks, here are the facts.
Fact #1: The share of Ohio’s budget going to education last year was the lowest it had been in almost 15 years. This is irrespective of amount. This is purely measuring the state’s commitment to Ohio’s 1.7 million students.
Fact #2: Ohio’s public school system is now more dependent on locally raised revenue than it was 25 years ago. So rather than reduce the need for local revenue to pay for schools, the state has increased it.
Fact #3: Thanks to the diversion of state aid to privately run charter and private schools, Ohio’s public school students now receive less funding, adjusted for inflation, than they did in 1997.
Fact #4: The only time in the state’s history that more state than local revenue funded Ohio’s public schools, Education Week ranked our state’s education system as the nation’s 5th best. Now it’s middle of the pack. Meanwhile, Wyoming, which has fully committed to a funding system similar to the Fair School Funding Plan, now consistently ranks top 5-7.
So in short, the Ohio Republican record on education funding is this: less state revenue, more local property taxes and less accountability for the tax dollars.
Can you understand now why Schmidt, Loychik and others are trying desperately to distract voters from the real scandal here?
And, by the way, can we commend Republican House Speaker Bob Cupp and the majority of the House Republican caucus that finally bucked their party’s history and stepped up with the Fair School Funding Plan last year? Kudos.
But there’s good news for Cupp and other pro-public education-minded folks. Last year, Ohio school board candidates who ran on divisive issues got smoked here in Ohio. About 8 in 10 anti-honesty in education candidates lost.
The winning message was simple: These politicians are trying to distract us from their criminal negligence of our public education system.
So whenever you see these issues popping up, look at the education spending pattern in that state. Because that, more than anything else, will help you understand why during a time of historic investment need for our kids as they struggle to catch up from COVID-related learning issues many Republican lawmakers go squirrel hunting.
Just remember: If they’re getting away with it, it’s your fault.
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