More than 1,000 rally at Statehouse for school choice

By Catherine Candisky

The Columbus Dispatch

COLUMBUS — More than 1,000 students, teachers and school officials rallied outside the Statehouse Tuesday to thank lawmakers for helping parents have a choice about where their children attend school.

There was much to celebrate. Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled General Assembly is preparing to pass new state budget that increases per-pupil funding for charter schools and private schools. In addition, lawmakers are considering a bill to expand statewide a program offering tax-funded vouchers for private school tuition.

“I wanted the same opportunity of attending a school full of students like me (interested) in achieving our long-term goal of obtaining higher education,” said Victoria Langley, a sophomore at Cristo Rey Columbus High School, a Catholic college-prep academy.

Private-school tuition, she said, would not have been an option for her family without a school choice voucher to cover the cost.

Several lawmakers who spoke at the rally shot down criticism that school choice is an attack on traditional public schools. It’s about choice for parents and their children, they said.

“Some of our families feel they need another choice,” said Senate President Larry Obhoff, R-Medina.

House Education Chairman Andrew Brenner, R-Powell, said, “School choice is the civil rights issue of our day. This is the right for every parent and student to go to the school of their choice and make a decision in the best interest of their family and kids.”

About 120,000 students go to tax-funded, privately operated charter schools in Ohio and about 45,000 attend private schools through five state-paid voucher programs.

“We’re here to support parents as the primary educators of their children,” said Sister John Paul, principal of St. Michael, a Catholic school in Worthington.

“It’s important to us that parents have the freedom to choose what is best for their child and their education. For St. Michael School our parents are choosing a Catholic education for their child.”

About the Author