Introduced in late January by Rep. Steve King (R-IA-4), the School Choice Act repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the Dept. of Education to being a distribution center of block grants for school funding to the states.

The bill promotes school choice and at this point provides no provision for special needs children nor differentiates between secular and religious private schools. Local education agencies’ job will then be to distribute the block grants to public schools, parents who want to send their children to private schools and to parents that home-school their children.

“I respect the right of parents to chose where they want their child to go to school however I’ve always believed that public schools offers the most value in obtaining an education,” said Allen County Educational Service Center Superintendent Steve Arnold.

Arnold expressed a “wait and see” attitude on how the bill evolves and whether the effect would be positive or negative, “we just don’t know at this time,” adding, “People making decisions on public education should have public education experience in my opinion.”

Putnam County’s ESC Superintendent Dr. Jan Osburn calls the School Choice Act a major proposal that needs more details and discussion.

“Then we’ll see what happens,” Osburn said, noting that bills become better as they go through the legislative process.

Osburn is a strong supporter of equity and adequacy in school funding. And, like his counterpart in Allen County Osburn champions public schools as the best way to educate Ohio’s children.

“First and foremost, support for the public schools. We don’t mind competition but we want it to be a fair competition.”

He added that Ohio’s constitution establishes the state’s responsibility to provide education for it’s people noting there are 1.8 million students in Ohio’s public schools. This provision was approved by voters in 1851

After four rulings by the Ohio Supreme Court, the court handed the responsibility of school funding back to legislators but lawmakers seem to not to have yet figured out fair and equitable funding.

As for overlooking special needs children, both Arnold and Osburn are on the same page, that Ohio will continue to support educational opportunities for special needs children.

“The SC’s in Ohio will do their best to see that continues,” Arnold said. And Osburn said that there is concern for the children that have greater need than others.

Osburn said that “Charter schools, as a group, are not public schools,” adding that scarce resources should stay close to public schools. Charter schools spend more on overhead than education.

“Public schools are a solid backbone in each of the communities in Northwest Ohio,” Arnold said, “We need to keep public schools flourishing so that our communities continue to flourish as well.”