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Democrats Are Not Telling the Truth About School Spending

We are providing record funding and innovative change
By Andrew O. Brenner
February 23, 2024
On The Record

Editor's note: We prefer to publish exclusively in On The Record because we developed this platform to speak directly to you without the spin and censorship of the state media. We felt an exception was necessary in this case. 
An abbreviated version of this piece was published in the Columbus Dispatch on February 19 in response to an editorial by one of our Democratic colleagues. It was filled with so many untruths we felt it was necessary to set the record straight and to make sure Dispatch readers were aware of the real facts. 
The Dispatch limits all submissions to a certain number of words. This is an expanded version for those eager to learn more of the truth. 

Senator Bill DeMora, a Columbus Democrat, did not tell the truth in the column he penned for the Dispatch on February 13 on state spending for public schools.

DeMora claims Republican lawmakers are “diverting precious funds away from our public schools” by expanding school choice for K-12 students.

That is false. 

We spent a record amount on public education.

Our budget provides a record funding for K-12 public schools of $9.6 billion in fiscal year 2024 and $9.9 billion in fiscal year 2025.

That is an increase of 12.9% -- nearly $2 billion – over the previous year. 

And that amount doesn’t even include the hundreds of millions more the state provides for specific purposes such as literacy improvement, food and nutrition programs, broadband and technology systems, school improvement, student career education programs, and other examples outside the state aid each public school receives.

DeMora claims Ohio’s education system “has been chronically underfunded.”  


Senator DeMora disingenuously implies Ohio has fallen from 5th to 29th in school performance “since Republicans have taken over” because “we are asking public schools to continuously do more with less.”


Schools aren’t getting less. They are getting more and more, every year.

From FY 2014 to FY 2023:

     • All funds per pupil operating revenue increased from $11,768 to $17,117 (31.2%)
     • Average operating expenditures per pupil increased from $10,649 to $15,492 (31.3%) 
     (Source – Ohio Legislative Service Commission)

Facts show Senator DeMora is not telling the truth. 

Public schools have not received less money under Republicans in the last decade. Just the opposite. They’ve received more. Record amounts, in fact.

Whatever problems Ohio public schools are having, it is not due to a shortage of money. Not only are they getting record funding, they are sitting on top of vast amounts of unspent cash. The districts’ year-end cash balance reports show how much of their state and local revenues were not spent in the prior year.

Columbus City Schools, had a $244 million cash balance at the end of 2023. Columbus is forecasting a $303 million balance for 2024, and a $347 million cash balance in 2025.

Statewide, districts compiled a year-end cash balance of $9.6 billion in at the end of 2023.

This is clear and concrete evidence that schools are not starving for cash. In fact, they generally have more funds than ever before.

DeMora is also not telling the truth when he claims Republicans are “diverting precious funds away from our public schools” to expand the school voucher program.   

Every school voucher used by students actually saves taxpayers money.  

It costs about $15,000 to educate a student in a public school in the state of Ohio — some districts spend far more (districts are spending a statewide average of $15,427.50 per pupil to educate a student.)

Vouchers cost significantly less, up to $6,165 for K-8 students or $8,407 for high school students.

Contrary to Senator DeMora’s disinformation, it is cheaper to educate a child at a private school with a scholarship than at a public school.

Providing these vouchers isn’t just sound economic policy. It is the morally preferable choice. It empowers parents.  

The Educational Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) program allows parents to make the best decisions for their kids’ education. 

The budget we passed last year makes every student in Ohio eligible for an EdChoice scholarship, for the first time in state history. 

Universal school choice is now a reality in Ohio. And thousands of families have embraced the opportunity with enthusiasm. 

The state has provided more than 82,000 vouchers for this school year alone -- triple the number awarded in previous years.

Any student whose family income is at or below $135,000 (450% of the federal poverty level) is eligible for a full EdChoice scholarship.

Students with family incomes above $135,000 are eligible for a means-tested, proportionally reduced EdChoice scholarship award.

So, why is DeMora so vehement in his criticism of school choice?


But not for the kids. 

Money for the unions that fund campaigns for Democrats.

If DeMora truly cared about improving education for Ohio’s children he would enthusiastically support universal school choice. He is evidently more interested in keeping the support of the unions.

Unions pour money into Democrats’ campaign coffers. Democrats, in turn, try to give as many of your tax dollars as possible to public schools – regardless of how well, or how poorly, those schools perform.

Almost all of the political contributions made by teachers unions go through two national organizations.

National organizations who demonize parents.  

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten recently compared school choice and parental rights advocates to segregationists who opposed the integration of schools.

"I can't think of anything more actually racist than trapping poor Black kids in the failing schools in these big blue cities dominated by a super-majority of radical progressives who are running the cities and destroying the schools," responded South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott.

Weingarten knows which side of her bread is buttered. In 2023 to 2024, The American Federation of Teachers donated $583,197 to liberal groups, $1,315,423 to Democrats, and $1,360 to Republicans.

The National Education Association donated $7,372,677 to liberal groups, $1,178,729 to Democrats and $8,415 to Republicans.

One would think these unions would be focused on education, but there is abundant proof they’re more interested in funding the radical ideology of the far left, while vilifying parents who speak out about it, or who dare explore better educational opportunities for their children. 

Unfortunately, that includes Bill DeMora. 

The numbers speak volumes. Transparencyusa.org closely reviews and reports campaign contributions and expenditures.

These are screenshots of their reports from December 2023 on the Ohio Education Association donations.

From Transparencyusa.org

Let’s take a look at who they gave most of their money to.

     • $1.12 million went to One Person One Vote, the radical leftist campaign behind the effort to use ballot initiatives to change our state constitution.
     • $500,000 to Citizens Not Politicians, the far-left group supporting  the Democrats’ efforts to gerrymander by lawfare.
     • $150,000 to the Ohio Democratic Party.
     • $46,499 to the Ohio Democratic Party Supreme Court Fund

Notice a pattern?

In fact, as seen below, the Ohio Education Association ranked 3rd among the highest contributors to the radical One Person One Vote campaign.

From Transparencyusa.org

The Sixteen Thirty Fund led by a Swiss billionaire ranked first. That’s the same group that uses contributions from outside the United States to fund the far-left progressive playbook currently targeting Ohio’s Constitution. 

The Sixteen Thirty Fund spent $12 million dollars on ballot campaigns in Ohio in 2023 and donated more than $400M supporting leftist candidates and causes in the 2020 election.

The One Person One Vote group used those Sixteen Thirty Fund  contributions to pay Eric Holder’s lawyer, the Elias Law Group, $278,038. (Elias is listed as the fifth biggest recipient of that money in the screenshot above.)

That’s the same Elias Law Group that repeatedly sued Ohio’s Redistricting Commission in 2022 in an effort to gerrymander guaranteed wins for Democrats. They failed, of course, and all of those dollars were wasted as the commission passed new maps with a unanimous bipartisan vote.

The bottom line – Democrats aren’t supporting children or improved education. 

They are supporting their own campaign war chests, especially at the national level. Their cynicism is only compounded by their dissembling. 

Republicans want schools to succeed. We want students and teachers to succeed.

Teaching is a selfless profession that is unique in the demands it requires and the rewards it bestows. 

Teachers deserve more pay. The money is there. Ohio school districts could spend more on teacher salaries – if they chose to do so. Meanwhile, more money is going to the ever-expanding education bureaucracy supported by the unions.

Throwing your tax dollars at a problem is no sure solution. There is no greater evidence of that than our public education system. Now is the time for innovative solutions. 

There is another reason DeMora’s objections to the innovation of universal school choice ring hollow. His column strongly suggests Ohio’s school funding is unconstitutional. That is untrue. 

Ohio’s school funding system has been perfectly constitutional ever since the Ohio Supreme Court released the DeRolph v. State of Ohio  case 22 years ago – in 2002.

There have been lots of changes since the original school funding case.

That includes 14 billion dollars in new school construction, on top of the billions more in per pupil spending. 

But there is something that hasn’t changed, not one bit – the Democrats’ allegiance to the same old tired complaint, “Schools don’t have enough money.” It’s little wonder taxpayers have no stomach for ever-more spending after the radical union leadership has made parents the enemy.

One would think these unions would be focused on education but there is abundant proof they’re more interested in funding the radical ideology of the far left, while vilifying parents who dare explore better educational opportunities for their children.

As chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee I’m disappointed that Democrats continue to align themselves with these groups who just want to enrich themselves with union dues, taxpayer dollars, and political power plays, all while pledging allegiance to their D.C. overlords.

Unfortunately for them, and DeMora, the facts are not on their side, and neither are the hard-working Ohio families who know better.

Senator Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) represents Ohio Senate District 19. He is Chairman of the Senate Education Committee.