Colonial America had no public common school SYSTEM open to all children at no cost to parents. In the mid 1800’s each individual state in the northern part of the county made the crucial policy decision to embrace the public “common school movement.” The movement was embraced later in the 19th century by southern states. In spite of inadequate state support (school finance litigation has taken place in at least 45 states) the common school system has been a magnificent success story. In Ohio, incremental improvements have accrued in the SYSTEM from 1851 when state responsibility for public education became a constitutional mandate until the present time.
In Ohio the state has never completely assumed its responsibility to secure a constitutional thorough and efficient SYSTEM. When the Ohio Supreme Court confronted state officials with the state responsibility issue its March, 24 1997 decision, some state officials suggested that the “thorough and efficient clause” be removed from the Ohio Constitution. Without Article VI, sections 2 and 3 of the Ohio Constitution, state government would have no obligation to provide for a SYSTEM of public schools.
The Speaker of the House, a very vocal and exuberant supporter of education “choice” (vouchers, charter schools etc.), is the sponsor of a bill that would establish the Constitutional Modernization Commission (HB 188). This bill passed the House on June 8. The Speaker said when the bill was introduced that “thorough and efficient” and “common schools” are provisions that should be reviewed by the Commission.
In the context of elected state officials’ infatuation with the privatization / “choice” movement, it is quite probable that membership of such a Commission will bend toward an amendment or amendments that would eliminate state responsibility for a state SYSTEM of public education. The House version of the budget bill (HB 153) has a provision that would allow public money to flow directly to schools operated by for-profit corporations with no sponsoring agent, and very scant accountability and transparency. In addition to this egregious provision, charter school and vouchers are expanded greatly, setting the stage for unlimited choice. The battle to save theOhiopublic education SYSTEM is being lost because most citizens are not paying attention to the matter. Most people don’t realize there is a battle raging.
Part V coming soon…