HB 136 could cost Milford millions – please stand with us against it!

A new House Bill on School Choice Vouchers could end up costing the Milford School District millions of dollars that are supposed to be supporting our own students.  The school board passed a resolution against HB 136 last night, also stating we are opposed to any legislation that seeks to transfer public dollars to support private education.

While vouchers have an appropriate place in struggling school districts, this bill would expand the program to cover any student, regardless of the academic performance of the student’s school district or building, if family income is less than $95,000.  It would apply to students who are already enrolled in private schools, and would allow families to bank any difference between the cost of the school and the amount of the voucher, for use at any private school or college in Ohio in the future.

The funding for these vouchers would come from money the school district is receiving for its enrolled students.  No extra funds would be provided – the district would lose money that was given to us by the state for a student already attending Milford!  The entire amount of the state aid given to a public school district can be diverted to the voucher program, if that many students are attending – or choose to attend – a private school.

In addition to the many questions about using public dollars to fund private education, this would hit hard at school districts that are already struggling financially.  Right now, Milford receives approximately $16 million a year from the state (appr. 30% of our revenues).  If HB 136 passes, several million of this would be diverted to support private school students.  With our already tight budgets, this would be devastating and require both drastic cuts, hurting the education we provide, plus additional support from the taxpayers in another form.

This is just another example of the unfunded mandates that prevent school districts from being able to control their budgets and deliver the best education possible.  Click here to read about other unfunded mandates; and here to read about Milford’s fight against them.

Please stand with the school board against HB 136.  Contact either Representative Joe Uecker or Senator Tom Niehaus (or both!), or post a comment here and I will be happy to pass it on.

**Please see below in comments for more explanation of how Ohio’s proposed voucher system would work**

14 Responses to “HB 136 could cost Milford millions – please stand with us against it!”

  1. Herta Pfeiffer Says:

    We are FOR HB 136, to give parents of ALL public school students a CHOICE in the education of their children. There are many reasons they should have this choice: some disagree with the teaching of evolution as fact (even though it remains a THEORY because of its many flaws and unproven assumptions.) Other parents (and tax payers) reject the Public Schools’ philosophy
    that there are no absolute truths – that morality and ethics are a personal matter. Thus many believe the Public Schools have contributed to our deteriorating culture.

    Too many young people coming out of public schools do not know of the great men and their personal sacrifices to found this nation. Their created Documents, which made America the longest running Democratic Republic in the history of the world, are not known nor appreciated.

    It is the RIGHT of parents to have a say in WHAT their children are taught; this can be done only through private schooling, which is unaffordable to most, or through home education, also not feasible for many parents, especially single ones who must go to work.

    How can the schools “lose money” when a child is taken out of them? The school then no longer has the expense of educating
    and transporting that child. Also, schools won’t have to continue to enlarge or build, hire more staff, etc. – this will reduce our property taxes. Also, it is my understanding that the vouchers are for only
    a PORTION of the amount given to the public schools, and are income eligible. (That is how they work in other states.)

    This is a matter of the freedom and authority which parents should have, to exercise their right to choose the best education for their child.

    Please read about the recent successful Voucher Program instituted in our neighboring state, Indiana. http://www.schoolchoiceindiana.com/2011/10/192/
    Incidentally, Indiana is one of the lowest taxed states in the nation …
    Sincerely, Jacob & Herta Pfeiffer

  2. andreabrady Says:

    Hi Herta,
    Thanks for the comments. I am not necessarily against vouchers – there is definitely a time and a place for them. As you point out, Indiana has a successful program and could be a good model.
    However, HB 136 is NOTHING like what Indiana is using. I am against THIS PLAN, HB 136, not vouchers in general.

    In Indiana, the requirements are:
    * 150% or less of the Federal guidelines for free & reduced lunch income levels – for a family of 4, that would be $33,525 a year or less
    * Child attended public school for a full year the previous year, or was already on the voucher program the previous year
    * The state will pay the lesser of the tuition; $4,500 a year; or a formula based on income

    In Ohio, the requirements are:
    * Family income of $95,000 or less
    * Any student, even if the student has NEVER attended a public school
    * The student receives the ENTIRE amount that would be given to the student at the student’s home public school (in Milford, around $5,500)
    * If the cost of the private education is less than the amount given ($5,500), the student’s family may KEEP the balance and use it to pay for another private school in the future, or for an Ohio college

    This is very different from the Indiana plan. In addition, the way it’s funded does not make sense. The Indiana plan does not take away any money from the public school because, as you said, the child they were getting the money for is now leaving to go to private school.

    In Ohio, if the student has NEVER gone to public school, the public school NEVER receives any money for him/her. So it’s as if the money the school is receiving for my daughter is now being taken away to pay for a child who’s already going to a private school.

    Sure, we may lose some public school students under the plan who decide to go to private schools; that’s fine, but the real danger is having to pay for students who were never part of the public school system.

  3. Herta Pfeiffer Says:

    Dear Andrea,
    Thank you for your explanation. You know that I respect your opinion because of your great knowledge (and solutions) to Milford District’s issues in the past. At first I had to agree with you; but with further consideration, I can understand Ohio’s stand on the Voucher issue.

    Re: Your # 11: Ohio’s family income requirement being so high. It seems logical that a family with such a high income (in some people’s view) should not get this “benefit”. However, they are in a much higher tax bracket, probably owe more for their home, etc. – should they not be treated equally to those with lower income?
    After all, they are STILL paying taxes for other people’s children to go to public school .. thus they are merely receiving money which is given for EACH student in a public school … rich and poor.

    11a) If a student has NEVER attended public school, we can assume that they were home schooled, possibly because of cost of private schooling. The family may not “keep” what is not spent on private schooling; it must always be spent here in Ohio, on the child’s education. I assume if parents do not comply, the money must be returned to the state. (Actually, the state should pay the private schools directly, as is done with public schools.)

    Re: # 13 As I see it, the money for your daughter is not taken away. The tax payers are still paying it. That same amount is now also available for the child who would do better in a private school, in the opinion of the PARENTS. An additional benefit of this system would be that MORE teachers would be needed in the private schools, and “Education” would become a competitive field, improving quality and efficiency, as is the case in all areas of the private sector. It would seem that HB 136 puts the needs of the child first.

    One additional question: The latest figures I requested from the Treasurer (2007) stated that the per student expenditure was $8,610. Has it gone down to $6,500? That is good news!

    Respectfully yours, Herta Pfeiffer

  4. Herta Pfeiffer Says:

    Andrea, please ignore the #’s in the previous response. The bullet points came out as numbers when I printed your response. Sorry for the confusion.

  5. andreabrady Says:

    Hi again, Herta,
    You’re awesome – thanks for the comments. You’re right, there are a number of ways to look at it. My biggest problem with the way it’s set up in this bill is that on one hand, the state and federal governments are hamstringing public school districts thru incredibly expensive mandates in just about every area of operations. Yet, they then take away funds from us and expect us to continue to meet those demands and provide high-quality operations. That’s what would happen here. We would lose money we count on to meet those unfunded mandates – it would be given to students who have never been in our schools – yet we would not be given any relief from the requirements. How are we supposed to do that?

    In the way Ohio has it set up, even a child who started in private school from K on could qualify (a child does not have to come from homeschooling only). I understand what you’re saying that the taxpayers are still paying the money. However, from the school’s perspective, we are told by the state that they believe we need $X per year from them (right now, that $5,500 or so) to educate each child, based on how “wealthy” our district is. But then they take that money away from us and give it to a private school child for whom we have never received funds.

    This is a disconnect between the parents paying and the district receiving. But without some kind of changes in the system and relief from the state/feds, we just can’t afford this. There have to be major changes before a system like this could work without potentially decimating the public systems.

    Given the way the system works, I would not be at all happy to know students going to private schools could end up with money from the state that could be used for college, when my money is eaten up to meet mandated requirements. Yes, many private schools are spending less than public to provide education – but they don’t have to follow the same rules! The bill would be slightly more tolerable if at least the family was paid the lesser of the public school amount OR the cost of the private school, like Indiana does.

    You asked about the total cost/student. It’s actually around $9,700 right now. Remember, the state only gives a portion of the cost – the rest we’re supposed to raise in local taxes.

  6. Philip McCain Says:

    You present this as dollars leaving the schools that support students. Well, guess what, the students leave as well. Doesn’t the district still keep the local tax revenue for a student that is no longer in the district?

  7. andreabrady Says:

    Hi Phil! Hope you’re doing well, thanks for commenting.

    No, the most disturbing financial aspect of this is that it’s NOT just for students who are leaving the district – it’s for kids who have NEVER been in Milford Schools. This could be students who have always been in private schools, who are now taking a student’s worth of state funds from us that we were ONLY given because we currently have that student in our classes. It could also be a new family that moves to Milford and goes to private schools – brand-new to the district, never in Milford.

  8. Herta Pfeiffer Says:

    Dear Andrea,
    I apologize for monopolizing your blog! Thank you for your time, patience and sharing your expertise. I forgot the STATE with their
    unreasonable and unfunded mandates greatly contributes to cost and funding! (And, in my opinion, dictates TOO MUCH to local schools!)
    How do we deal with the state on that issue? Is there ANYTHING we can do? (Besides privatizing ALL schools so they can focus on TEACHING so we can compete with the rest of the world! And think of the cost savings to reduce the bloated staff at the Ohio Dept. of Ed …)
    All school districts should have the autonomy to run schools as they see fit; the administration and teachers know their own students and their community, and are best qualified for this responsibility. I know it is simplistic, but in my opinion, all these rules and mandates from disconnected bureaucrats are impeding the education of children.
    If all school decisions were made on the local/district level, with consideration and input from parents, the School Vouchers may not even have become an issue.

  9. Philip McCain Says:

    Now the district is losing money it never had for students never in the district?

  10. Amy Keefer Says:

    Dear Andrea,
    I have been enlightened by the discussion and would like to jump in to ask a question and comment. As I understand the previous posts, each district is required to fulfill certain mandates from the state and possibly federal government, but is not given the money to do so. The board is opposed to HB136 because it would take money away from MEVSD to give to resident tax payers’ students money to go to private or home school, while still requiring the mandates. Yet if these students were not enrolled in MESVD, the district was receiving no state or local money for them. The district receives money based on the number of students enrolled, so if I child is not enrolled, they are not receiving money for him/her. Is that correct?

    Now for the comment: if the parents are residents, paying taxes, but not using the public schools, shouldn’t they receive some of the money back they are paying in state and local taxes to pay for their student’s education? Isn’t the district experiencing the same thing that taxpayers experience if they choose an option other than public education? Their money is being taken and used for someone else while still having the burden of meeting certain requirements, very similar to parents paying for the education best suited for their student, but still having to fund the local school with their tax dollars? Also, many people pay taxes, even though they have no students at all, such as my elderly neighbors. It seems the root of the problem is the unfunded mandates, not helping parents pay for the most appropriate education for their student’s situation.

    Perhaps I am seeing this all wrong, if so please enlighten me. We have never met, so to give you a little background, I have lived in the district since 1995 and have four children. I did a combination of homeschool, private school and public online charter for all of them through the eighth grade. Two have graduated from MHS and two are currently attending there. I feel very blessed to have had so many options available and the finances to meet my children’s extremely varied educational needs. We have been very satisfied with the education at MHS.
    Amy Keefer

  11. andreabrady Says:

    Hi Herta, Phil & Amy,
    Sorry for the delay in responding – been a busy weekend! I’m tied up this morn but will post an answer this afternoon. Thanks!

  12. andreabrady Says:

    Hi everyone,
    Sorry for the delay in responding. I really appreciate your taking time to post on this blog. It’s great to have people talking about what’s going on in schools, getting various ideas and questions out there.

    This has become a long post – I apologize. But there is a lot of information to consider with this issue, as it’s complicated and convoluted.

    Amy, you mention parents who are paying taxes but not using the schools – should they “get money back” because they are not using the public school system. The current requirement of “free” education for all prevents this. Of course, we know this can’t be “free” – everyone must chip in, theoretically at a level appropriate to his/her means, so no one is overly burdened.

    One argument is people not using the public system end up paying for other people’s children. However, the system is based on the idea that we all benefit from having an educated workforce and stronger contributors to society. Young people with no children “pay forward,” to reap the benefit when they do have children; retirees/empty nesters “pay backward,” supporting the future for the community and as a “thank you” for those who paid when they were in school. Kind of a circle of life approach, where we all support each other all our lives.

    Of course, some families never did and never will use the public school system. With the current system, this is their choice – they could choose to send their children to public school and not pay anything additional. But the public system would not survive, and would not be equitable, if a family could “opt out” of paying toward the “public school for all.”

    [Sidebar: That’s not to say the current system is equitable – we know there are many problems with it. However, that’s beyond what we, as a local public school, can address, and involves completely separate issues from what we’re talking about here.]

    So, these public school systems are created and told to provide the best education possible. Not only is this good for our children & future, but it’s good for property values. With few exceptions, property values are highest where the public school performs well.

    Each school system is then allocated a certain amount of money from the state of Ohio. The “pot” they have allocated to education divided up based on their evaluation of how “wealthy” each district is – how much property is owned by residents, and how much business is in the area. The state then pays each school district a certain amount, based on this index, for each student in the district.

    Then, the public school systems are told they have to meet this requirement, and that requirement, and another requirement. There are mandates for every area of operations! On top of these, we must somehow add actually educating our students, and making the education as strong as possible.

    Yet, the money we are given by the state is not nearly enough to cover even the mandates, much less the education we need to provide on top of them. The state tells us the rest of the money must come from our residents, in the form of property or income taxes. So we go to the voters and hope they agree we can’t meet our bills, and vote to give us more money.

    [Another sidebar: The issues of efficiency and responsible spending come in here as well – but once again, they are separate from this discussion. I do feel the district is spending very well given the parameters we have. There is always room for improvement, and we’re continually improving, but for this argument, I’m assuming there is no issue with responsibility.]

    Into this mix comes HB 136. Now, the state is telling us that the “free education for all” model still applies, but we also have to take the money we’ve been TOLD we deserve (based on the wealth index and number of students), and give it back to families choosing to send their children to private schools. All of a sudden, the idea of us all supporting a “free” public education is no longer in effect. We are not all sharing in the public burden – in fact, most of these families would receive significantly MORE back from the school district than they pay in taxes to the district each year!

    For instance – take a family that earns the top income level, $95,000/year. Let’s say they live in a $250,000 home and pay approximately $3,500 in taxes that go directly to the school district. This family has two children who are attending private schools. They receive $5,500 (round number) for each child’s private school – a total of $11,000 each year. Yet, the family only paid about a third of this to the public school district in the first place! In addition, the private school students still receive transportation from the public school, which is an additional cost on top of the $5,500 each.

    If the family has 4 children, double these numbers. There is no limit to the amount a family can get, until the district has paid out all its state aid. (And not sure what happens then, if more people apply …) And this is the top income level. Families at a lower income level are contributing significantly less to the district – yet still receiving the $5,500 for each child.

    And yes, the family earning $95,000 is also paying $3,800/year in state taxes – but only a small portion of this goes to education. No matter which way you look at it, the families even at the top level are receiving back more than what they pay into the public education system.

    Some might argue that, in a public school, each student is receiving $9,500 worth of “benefit” (around what it cost Milford per student last year). Yet this is not true – that $9,500 is an after-the-fact number, taken by dividing total spending for the previous year by the number of students. This includes all the expense for mandates that never touch most children. I can’t give you a specific number of what “value” an average public school student gets a year, but it’s a fraction of that $9,500.

    If a public school system is going to work, the burden has to be shared by all. The argument that we should not have a public system is a different one, too long to get into here. But, in my opinion, given the system we have, how it works, how money is allocated, and the burden put on school districts to provide services that NEVER TOUCH THE AVERAGE STUDENT – HB 136 just doesn’t work.

    Herta, your question is a good one: How do we deal with the state (and federal) government on the issue of mandates? Is there anything we can do? That’s tough. If you recall, both Gary Knepp and I have been fighting unfunded mandates in various ways. This past winter, Tom Niehaus asked me to get a list together of mandates so the legislators could begin to understand what districts are required to do. We did that (see https://andreabrady.wordpress.com/milford-fights-unfunded-mandates/ AND https://andreabrady.wordpress.com/unfunded-mandates-under-consideration/ ). I also pushed to have the Clermont County and other school districts meet to discuss mandates, perhaps join together to fight them. I am extremely disappointed to say the OTHER CLERMONT SCHOOLS HAD NO INTEREST, EVEN IN MEETING!

    If we are going to get anywhere, we need numbers. We need school districts to stand up and say no more. We need residents to stand up and say it as well. The more people we have standing together, the better our chances. But having a couple board members from Milford harping about it will get us no where.
    It’s not easy. It’s a lot of work & time. But it’s the only way. And with only a handful of us willing to say anything to the state, I guarantee we won’t get far.

    But if you want to find real ways to reduce taxes (or prevent new taxes), yet keep a solid education – this is it. Fight unfunded mandates.

    Hope this was helpful … Please comment back!

  13. Herta Pfeiffer Says:

    Dear Andrea, sorry for the delay in expressing my appreciation for your thorough and necessarily long explanation. I’m overwhelmed with the complexity of it all. There is no need to comment on each problem issue; they are many and seem insurmountable, with the only answer being that SOMEONE ultimately has to pay for all this exploding growth of programs, staff, physical space, materials, etc. etc., and this “someone” is the tax payer. Unfortunately, that well is going to run dry, if our economy remains as it is or gets worse.

    In the 90’s, I was a visiting nurse in a neighboring state, supervising home care of severely mentally and physically handicapped children, who could only lie in a reclining wheel chair and stare at the ceiling.

    When parents insisted that these children be mainstreamed into the educational system, it had to be arranged at astronomical costs to the schools and the health care system (usually Medicaid). It involved transportation, a nurse or aide with the child, special tutors (who truly accomplished nothing, academically speaking) but it got the child out of the house and freed up the stay at home mothers.

    In all cases, the families owned special vehicles to transport their child, but it was “not their responsibility” … and during school days the moms could go shopping, watch TV at home (in one case, while chain smoking) … They even had the help of LPN’s and aides during the evening, and at times at night …

    A few years ago, a friend in another Cincinnati school district who drove a school bus told us that she routinely drove a little girl across town to a special school for the deaf (hopefully in a mini-bus!) …

    The issue is not: should we not help those less fortunate than ourselves, but HOW to do this without causing the rest of society, the workers and tax payers, to go bankrupt … There has to be some discernment, and that is best done on the local/district level where each family, and their responsibility, is considered individually.

    Andrea, perhaps the system is too broke, and too huge, to fix …
    Speaking just for our own school district: I have confidence in our own school board (especially your conscientious involvement, and that of Gary Knepp), the administration and the teachers, and of course, with parent involvement, to provide the best education for ALL children, from special needs kids to gifted ones. Only in districts which have poor ratings should the state step in with their “mandates” … (An aside: If you remember, when Governor Strickland asked ALL Ohio government departments (bureaucrats) to cut their spending/staffs by 10% – only the Education Dept. refused to comply. I think at that time they had over 600 employees … ) Let’s save some tax money there!

    It seems like the public school system is beyond repair; that is why other states have opted for creative solutions like vouchers, and also why so many parents have chosen to home educate their own children. Vouchers don’t solve our funding problem, and maybe exacerbates it. But it does give parents the RIGHT to educate their children in the way that THEY believe is best. For those who are Christians, the Bible “mandates” that PARENTS are the primary teachers of their children … and are held accountable to a higher authority if they neglect this duty. If “government schools” are not the best fit for their kids, they must pursue a different system.

    Thank you for allowing us this forum to express our views.
    Sincerely, Herta Pfeiffer

  14. Herta Pfeiffer Says:

    Forgot to check “Notify me … ” (with above comment) … Herta

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