Creating Education Options for Ohio Parents
Jon Husted (R-Kettering) has long fought for school choice. He played pivotal roles both in developing the state’s charter school program and in creating the Ohio Education Choice Scholarship Program. In an interview on May 2, Election Day, with the Gadfly, Speaker Husted explained why he believes in school choice, and what he believes will result from the state’s newly enacted school voucher program.
Gadfly: What’s the status of school choice in the Buckeye State, and how will this program affect it?
Husted: School choice is here to stay in Ohio…. I think we are at a point … in Ohio where we now need to focus on quality growth. I hope that with the Choice Scholarship Program, and other reforms that we are undertaking in the state’s education marketplace, that we create a broader venue of options for parents and children, so that we can ensure that the educational offerings we provide families meet the unique needs of every child
Gadfly: What are the potential pitfalls facing the Choice Scholarship Program?
Husted: Not getting enough schools that are willing to participate in the program … could lead to a situation where there aren’t enough quality school options for all participating children.
Gadfly: The program requires participating schools to take state achievement tests. What’s the benefit?
Husted: We want to ensure that all children who utilize vouchers are making sufficient academic progress
Gadfly: Do you expect opposition to the program?
Husted: There certainly could be political or ideological challenges to the program from people who fundamentally oppose school choice. If parents and children want to have vouchers, want to keep vouchers, want to expand vouchers, they are going to need to make their voices heard.
Gadfly: How is this program different from others throughout the country?
Husted: We are aware of what is going on everywhere else, but frankly we designed a voucher program that is unique to Ohio. We made the voucher amount higher than what a lot of other voucher programs have. The voucher is enough to allow the child to attend a good non-public school, but the amount is still less than what we have been spending per pupil in the traditional public schools.
Gadfly: This spending level should enable some private schools to expand their capacities in the form of hiring new teachers and even developing facilities to meet the needs of their new students. Where does the Choice Scholarship Program fit in the overall landscape of Ohio’s school choice programs?
Husted: I believe the voucher program is a natural progression from the work the Ohio legislature has done with school choice programs like charter schools, the Autism Scholarship program, and the Cleveland voucher program. With vouchers, we are trying to open that door to students outside of Cleveland who have not had the opportunity to utilize vouchers. Really, it is past time for us to do this, and now I believe we are catching up with where Ohio’s education landscape needs to be.
Gadfly: Your recent focus on the state’s voucher program has not come at the expense of your support for charter schools. You have been visiting schools around the state. What have you learned?
Husted: You try to bolster those that have been successful while changing state law so we can eliminate the poorly performing ones.
Gadfly: What motivates you?
Husted: Education is the key to economic success, both for the state and individuals. Without a quality education, you cannot succeed in the new economy and your chances are dramatically lessened. This is what is driving me to change Ohio’s education laws to help students be more academically successful. We need to make sure that these students get a fair chance at opportunity in life.
by Dale Patrick Dempsey