No one school is right for all
One of the things that makes our city great is its diversity. The differing opinions that come with diverse neighborhoods often shine through in our politics. One big issue is whether one should support Issue 69, to implement a new tax levy for CH-UH public schools. As a parent who truly believes that children are our future, I want what’s best for our kids. My concern is that much of the jargon in support of Issue 69 is misinformative, and does not have the best interests of children in mind.
I am a product of public schooling; I have no issue with public schools. Children who attend them deserve the best education they can receive. However, I’ve learned that not every school is best for every child. Some children are auditory learners, some are hands-on; some need a slow-paced classroom; some do well in Montessori settings; others learn best online. The list of differences can go on and on.
The CH-UH City School District offers multiple options to accommodate families. However, no one school can master every learning style.
Federal law acknowledges differences in children as it requires schools to pay private school tuition for students with special needs if they cannot adequately teach them. Wealthy families who see that a school setting is not the best for their child send their child elsewhere. However, without EdChoice, lower-income families do not have the same luxury. Their children are trapped in a school system that does not benefit them. This increases a child’s probability of dropping out, and decreases the likelihood that a child would pursue further education. This perpetuates the cycle of generational poverty. Every child deserves a fair chance regardless of their family’s socio-economical status.
Where does this leave children with special needs? Many argue that EdChoice makes it so that public schools will consist mostly of children who have special needs. There are multiple schools across our county that either accommodate or are designed for children with special needs. In fact, Ohio has two state scholarships for children with special needs: the Jon Peterson Scholarship for children with an IEP and the Autism Scholarship for those with an autism diagnosis.
What about EdChoice being racist? There is a vast variety of schools that receive EdChoice funds that are populated predominately by children of color. One example is our own Lutheran East High School. There are many other EdChoice-funded schools that are as diverse as some of our public schools.
Some have an issue with state monies going to religiously affiliated schools because they feel that is a violation of church and state. I wonder if the same people have an issue with government agencies teaming up with places such as the YMCA, Goodwill, Catholic Charities, and Bellefaire, to offer services and trainings to those in need. We have a freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. In our county alone, there are EdChoice schools that represent Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and secular backgrounds. They are required to accept children of any religion. If any religion wanted to open a school funded by EdChoice, it has just as much of a right to do so as anyone else.
Lastly, there’s this thing about EdChoice draining money from our public schools. Quite frankly, this is false. CH-UH public school tax rates are in the top five of all public-school districts in the entire state. Our local taxes do not go to private schools. EdChoice is funded by the state and gives a maximum amount of about $6,000 a student per year. Children with special needs get more money as they often require more resources both in the public and private sector. According to the Ohio Dept. of Education, the "total revenue" per pupil for the CH-UH district was $22,702 per student (for fiscal year 2019). We are far from underfunded.
When a child uses an EdChoice voucher, state funding follows them rather than going to the school district. This is fair considering that a school should not get funding for a child if it is not serving that child. Perhaps competition will challenge all schools to improve their education models.
I am not promoting a vote for or against Issue 69 in our upcoming election. However, I believe that we all deserve to have facts. I am an advocate for all children to get the best education that they can.
Brianna McMullins is a believer in Christ, a mom, health care worker, mental health advocate and nature lover.