STRONG PUBLIC EDUCATION
I support a strong and well-funded public education system. But our one party rule Republican-controlled legislature does not seem to feel the same way. Funding for our schools has remained flat since 2005, which has shifted the burden for keeping our schools operating directly onto our local communities via property taxes and local income taxes. It’s unfortunately no surprise that this shift also coincided with massive tax cuts to corporations and to the wealthiest Ohioans, which removed $9.8 billion from our state revenue, depriving our schools of needed resources. Our senior citizens and other middle class residents have been unable to keep up with these rapid changes, and are being increasingly burdened with these dramatically increasing costs, and are more and more feeling forced to vote against any additional support for our schools via local levies.
It was twenty-three years ago that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in DeRolph v. State that the current method of school funding was unconstitutional, as the Ohio Constitution requires that the State shall provide a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the State, a task our legislators have abjectly failed to fulfill to this day. And we are experiencing the results of that failure, as Ohio’s place in educational quality rankings have sunk from 5th in the nation in 2010 to between 27th and 31st today (depending on the study).
Another issue is the expansion of state dollars going to private schools by either vouchers or online subsidies, a policy which has served to enrich a handful of private entities, but has made no overall improvement in educational quality in the state. I support putting charter schools under the control of local boards of public education since, thanks to the Ohio Legislature, for-profit charter operators currently acquire public funds from the local school district without a vote of the people. This lack of accountability has made Ohio’s charter schools “a joke – literally.” According to auditors, these schools are responsible for misspending public (i.e. your) money almost *four times* more often than other publicly funded agencies (including a billion dollars being siphoned off from just one charter school scam, the GOP-promoted and politically enabled ECOT debacle, the largest financial scandal in Ohio history). It for such reasons as these that I am against any type of charter school that is run for profit. I am also against vouchers that use public dollars to fund religious schools, as such an action is a direct violation of the Ohio Constitution.
My solution to fixing this school funding issue is to deal with our underwater tax system and make for an equitable system that ensures all residents pay their fair share. This will remove the burden from our property taxes, and direct it towards those who are most able to pay. Currently in Ohio, earners of $500K a year pay 7% of their income in taxes, while lower earners of $24K and less pay 14%. We cannot have a successful society when such inequities exist.
As for higher education, it can and should be made more affordable to Ohioans by reversing the decline in state support for our public colleges and universities, and by ensuring that school budgets are devoted to instruction, and not more seemingly ever-expanding administrative expenses. I stand for tuition-free state colleges in order to invest in the future of Ohio via the people who live and work here. Having been the recipient of tuition-free college myself while growing up in Australia, I know first-hand how beneficial such a system is to not just students and their families, but to the communities in which they live and work, and our society on a whole. Each person deserves the opportunity to develop and contribute to their full potential, and their financial status should not be a limiting factor from them doing so. Saddling young people in this nation with the literally $1.4 TRILLION in student debt they carry (with Ohio ranking first overall with the highest average student loan debt per capita in the country), is a detriment to our economy and to the student themselves as they attempt to start their adult lives. This is an unsustainable situation, one with no imminent solution being put forward by our State legislators.
I support the Ohio First program, which is pushing for 65% college participation rate by 2025. The cost of this program is $1.8 billion a year, which would be easily covered by restoring the revenue lost due to the previous corporate tax cuts. The bottom line is we cannot continually take money away from our schools and expect to have a well-educated and productive society.