Backer of Ohio bill to expand private school vouchers says it won't cost $1 billion as estimated
Backers of an Ohio bill that would give most students in private schools a public voucher are taking issue with numbers that show the program would be expensive and take money away from public schools.
The “Backpack Bill” would allow K-12 students who go to private schools to use a public stipend of up to $7,500 to do so.
The Legislative Service Commission (LSC), a non-partisan agency that examines the impact of legislation estimates the "Backpack Bill," recently released a fiscal note showing it could cost around $1 billion a year. The estimate assumed all students already paying for private schools, for non-chartered, non-public schools and those being homeschooled would ask for vouchers.
But one of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky), disputed that figure. “The number is an unrealistic expectation," McClain said.
McClain said it’s not possible that 100% of the 185,400 kids who are eligible to participate in the program will actually participate.
He said he's talked to parents who would not accept the state voucher. And he said analysis of a similar program in other states shows this program would cost much less than the LSC estimate, even when taking start-up costs into consideration.
"Looking at that expectation, you are looking at an additional $113 million for this program in year one," McClain said.
But opponents of the bill, who are suing the state over vouchers, contend the price tag is high enough that it could end up with local taxpayers being asked to pass more levies to make up for the money they could lose as a result of this legislation.
Bill Phillis with the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding has called the program a "scheme" for parents who already enrolled their children in private schools and never had any intention of enrolling in public schools.
He also said there is already too little oversight over home schools and charter schools now, pointing to the failed Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) charter school as an example.
The "Backpack Bill" was proposed in 2021. Even though it had support from the influential Center for Christian Virtue, it only got one hearing. A fiscal analysis for the proposal was never completed.