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Area legislators weigh in on proposed Ohio 'Backpack Bill'

Published By WTOV 9 Fox on February 23, 2022
Ron Ferguson In The News

Ohio’s House Finance Committee conducted a recent hearing on House Bill 290 - known as the "Backpack Bill". The proposed legislation would potentially change the way funding is allocated to schools.

"The No. 1 thing we need to do is make sure we are funding our students and not systems because that's what education is about,” State Representative Ron Ferguson said.

"There are a lot of variable costs, so to put a simple price tag on a student, I think, is going to present a challenge,” State Representative Don Jones said.

The bill would create a statewide universal voucher program throughout Ohio that would see a student’s funding follow them to the public or private school they attend.

"We need to make sure the more options we have, the more competition they have, the better chance they have to succeed,” Ferguson said. “So, I'm always going to support children 100%, and I believe the 'Backpack Bill' does that."

Jones said he'd like to wait until they see how the state's new school funding formula that is less than a year old is implemented before making changes to it. The "Backpack Bill," he said, may present numerous challenges for school officials.

"It does make budgeting very difficult because you don't know from one year to the next how many students you're going to have,” Jones said. “And part of this new funding formula assigns a cost per student to educate them in that school district based on the services that they provide."

Private and public schools have different funding going towards different items.

"Transportation is a big expense for school districts and some of our smaller private schools don't have transportation costs because they'd don't run buses and don't maintain a fleet of buses,” Jones said.

Advocates have landed on both sides of the issue. The bill is still in its early stages after being proposed at the end of last year.

"We have to make sure the money follows the student, but at the same time make sure that our public schools are able to take care of their children. There is a great balance we can find."

"There are a lot of variables when it comes to education,” Jones said. “And I'm not saying that parents shouldn't have a choice. I think they should. But when you make that choice, you might have to pay more depending on where you want to go."

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