I appreciate Representative Steve Huffman’s response to my article on the school choice scam perpetrated on Ohioans by the Ohio Legislature. He employed many time-honored political strategies in his response. He ignored a very important point in my article, made misleading and incorrect statements, and insulted a constituent (me) who dared disagree with his position on using tax dollars to fund private schools.
To begin, interestingly enough, Representative Huffman failed to mention that I am, as I wrote, a proponent of school choice. Where Ohio’s legislators and I part ways is with their insistence on using my tax dollars to fund other people’s private school choice, in part because private schools aren’t subjected to the same oversight rules and laws governing them as public schools are.
In his article, Representative Huffman asked, “Where was Tom Dunn the last five years,” as if to suggest that I have sat silently in the weeds while Ohio’s legislators concocted this plan alongside the many others they have created that defy logic.
I’m certain those who have worked with me and/or read my articles on education reform received a good chuckle at that one. Of the many things I could be accused of, being a wallflower about education mandates would not be one of them.
In fact, Representative Huffman knows quite well that, as Superintendent of the Miami County ESC, I partnered with other local ESC Superintendents to invite legislators, including him, to our board offices to discuss legislation such as the voucher program with area superintendents. So, the answer to his question is, “I was sitting across the table from you.”
I must admit, however, that I discontinued my invitations when it became obvious that he and his peers were not interested in school leaders’ positions when what we believed ran counter to their own beliefs. Frankly, I, along with many of my superintendent friends, became weary of being summarily dismissed by people who knew far less about educating kids than we did and who had political platforms they intended to implement regardless of what we said.
So, to make it sound as if I just recently crawled out from under my rock to protest this school choice bill, or any of the other ridiculous mandates our legislators have created, is disingenuous at best and dishonest at worst.
Let’s assess some of Representative Huffman’s other statements.
He wrote, “The concept of school choice started 25 years ago by Governor Voinovich.” That is not true. School choice existed long before that, as evidenced by the number of adults who were educated at home or in private schools decades before that.
What I am sure Representative Huffman meant to say was that Governor Voinovich introduced the concept of using public funds to pay for a private education. That would have been a far different and far more accurate statement.
Representative Huffman also wrote, “In general, the school from where a child comes from pays for the performance based voucher and the state pays for the income based voucher.” Besides being a poorly written sentence, for those not indoctrinated in politics, this is a classic diversion tactic. Making it sound as if the state is paying for an idea may sound more palatable to some, but where does he think the state’s money comes from? It is still our tax dollars.
In my original article, I wrote that our state politicians were duplicitous in that they created the voucher program under one pretense, which was to allow children to escape failing public schools, then they switched the reasons for its implementation over time, which is to expand public financial support for private schools. While I’m sure it wasn’t his intention, Representative Huffman confirmed my assessment.
He wrote, “It (school choice) was initially created (by Governor Voinovich) to reform the Cleveland City Schools giving school vouchers to students in the city of Cleveland.”
He then went on to detail how the law has slowly morphed into its current state, which allows parents of kids from the best schools in Ohio to receive vouchers to attend private schools even as the state has continued to pretend as if school quality has been the driving force.
That is exactly what I wrote had happened. Governor Voinovich was no dummy. He knew that if he could just convince people he was saving kids from horrible schools, his idea would be more agreeable to the masses, most of whom had no idea their tax dollars were going to fund his plan. He knew subsequent lawmakers could then swing the door wide open.
Which is exactly what they have done.
Representative Huffman commended the brave people who testified in favor of being given tax dollars to help pay for their child’s private education while denigrating those of us who chose not to trek to Columbus to participate in the legislative charade known as public hearings. I have testified before a legislative committee before and saw firsthand what a politically orchestrated event it was. I have no interest in being a pawn in a political game.
So, Representative Huffman, thank you for taking the time to verify the facts from my article.
Readers, you heard it straight from the horse’s mouth, which is even better than hearing it from mine.
Tom Dunn is the former superintendent of the Miami County Educational Service Center.