An Ohio bill that would direct public education funds to private schools if students choose to attend them was backed by religious lobby groups the Center for Christian Virtue and a think tank that promotes charter schools. created.

Ohio House Bill 290 — colloquially called the “Backpack Bill” — reads, “Families can choose options for all calculated funding amounts related to a student’s education and follow them to the public and non-public schools they attend

Introduced on May 11, 2021 by R-Richland County Rep. Riordan McClain, R-Upper Sandusky, and Marilyn S. John, Rep. Create a voucher system where dollars follow students. , or charter school.

Support for the HB 290 by the Center for Christian Virtue (CCV) is well known and CCV President Aaron Baer said: busy at a press conference on the bill last October.

CCVs Created created a website on behalf of and states:Empowering families to choose the educational option that best suits their needsin a press release.

At first, CCV’s role in introducing the HB 290 seemed minimal, relegated to rooting for John and McLain.

However, documents obtained by the secretariat The Ohio Capital Journal, through a public record request, found that CCV’s involvement in HB 290 was more extensive than previously known, and consulted external groups such as Heritage Action and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). and promotional material.

This past February, McLain’s legislative assistant emailed A draft of the bill was submitted to CCV legislator Nilani Jawahar and CCV lobbyist and assistant director of the Ohio Christian Education Network, Corrine Vidales, records show. Also among the recipients were John’s legislative assistant and the legislative and legal staff of Ohio Treasury Secretary Robert Sprague.

In an email sent on February 8, 2022, McClane’s then-aide said she had submitted the document “for your review” and added that she “had no additional information that could be communicated to the LSC.” I asked her to let me know if you have any thoughts or comments — the Legislative Services Committee, which assists lawmakers with the technical drafting of nonpartisan legislation.

thanks for forwarding this‘ said Troy Mclintosh, executive director of the Ohio Christian Education Network, which is part of CCV, the next day. “I think this accurately reflects the discussions we had.”

When McClaintosh asked whether McClain and John were drafting a sub-law to phase out the eligibility of private school students, the aide said, “We could draft another version that would be phased in. I can” and answered “What do I need to tell the LSC to do?”

The CCV guidance did not stop there.

by email from February 14Vidales summarized McClain and John’s points prior to their February 15 testimony before the Ohio House Finance Committee.

“Instead of funding private schools, we are funding families,” said Vidales. “If you think it’s stopping funding public schools, why? If parents had the choice to leave, would they? You can leave. Public schools don’t have this.”

Vidales also sent an email sharing numbers on pandemic learning “in advance of today’s strategic conference call,” and a Franklin County Common Petition for Ohio Private School Funding Programs Raised by the Ohio Coalition. I have sent an attachment of CCV’s counter-argument to the claim for court action. Equity and adequacy of school funding, a group of 100 public school districts.

Vidales said McIntosh planned to follow up with a study on parental satisfaction, which he did later.

In his testimony, John said:Children perform better and parental satisfaction (one of the best indicators of student success) is significantly higher.It references two studies McClintosh shared with her the previous afternoon.

Both studies were created by Ed Choice, an Indiana-based think tank that advocates for school choice. The Ohio Private School Voucher Program is also known as EdChoice.

John later said that HB 290 was not “a bill against public schools,” but “a bill for kids, for parents, for families.” CCV President Aaron Baer can be seen watching in the background throughout the testimony of the two lawmakers.

Amid the city of Columbus school strikes this week, the Columbus Dispatch reported on Tuesday that the Christian Virtue Center has purchased ads on six billboards around Columbus to promote its law website. The website attacks the Columbus School District as a “failing student” and promotes private schools.

The Christian Virtue Center wasn’t the only interest group involved in creating the Backpack Bill.

Mclintosh Sent Send a draft of the bill to Stephanie Cruez, Regional Director of Heritage Action, the policy arm of the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank.

2021, Mother Jones It was published An article in which Jessica Anderson, executive director of Heritage Action, acknowledged creating voter restriction laws in states across the country. MP.

Heritage Action’s Cruez responded to McIntosh on March 16, confirming that it had not yet discussed changes “essential for Heritage to support the bill,” but that Heritage said it would not “go forward with the School Choice Bill.” I would like to be more involved in the , and generally more active in the state legislatures. “

Cruez said, “I ran the text by Jonathan Butcher.” Heritage Policy Analystand examined the bill, pointing to specific lines with corrections and comments.

Some are complementary: “Lines 71-76 are very good,” while others are critical: “Lines 61-63 on page 3 will be unfavorable in court.”

Other proposals include that 104-110 should be outsourced to private contractors and that there should be an appeals process against parents who intentionally or unintentionally violate the law.

Commenting on the idea of ​​phasing in private school students, Kruez said:

Mcclintosh called Kreuz’s comments “helpful” the next day, and CCV emailed her back saying they were “happy to have Heritage’s support on this matter.”

McIntosh then forwarded the thread to McClain and John and asked them, “See if you think there’s anything we can implement to improve the bill.”

“It would be great if we could get their support for this,” he said.

When Kruez was contacted by Capital Journal to discuss her work on HB 290, she answered the phone by giving her name — and what role Heritage Action might play in school choice laws across the country. Are you there? – I hung up.

Connor McCarthy, Data Analyst at the Heritage Foundation, was asked if such line-by-line reviews with legislators of proposed legislation were common at Heritage Action.

“Heritage Action for America will enable unprecedented mobilization and communication of interested citizens who wish to participate in a national dialogue with members of Congress, working closely with Heritage Foundation experts. Promote legacy policies and hold national leaders accountable,” he said.

John’s Legislative Assistant, included in the email chain, was also asked about the Heritage Action’s impact on HB 290.

“HB 290 was produced by Rep. McLain and Rep. John through stakeholder meetings with internal and external sources, other state agencies, and the public. Or we looked at the laws that were passed,” he said.

On May 24, CCV held a luncheon for parliamentarians at the Houses of Parliament at HB 290. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is an organization of conservative and right-wing state legislators known for creating model legislation for implementation in state legislatures nationwide.

In a May 6 email invitation to Rep. Christopher Plummer, records show that McIntosh called the gathering “Diet member policy luncheondescribes the HB 290. Publicity material for the event was called the “Backpack Bill Briefing”.

Plummer did not respond to a request for comment.

The Center for Christian Virtue also did not respond to a request for comment.

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