Former Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell may have decided to get back into public life, but he does not seem to have learned much from his devastating loss in last year’s election. Blackwell ran for governor of Ohio last year with an education policy platform based solely on his support for school defunding, the “65% Deception,” and vouchers. Blackwell’s opponent – now Governor Ted Strickland – expressed his principled opposition to vouchers throughout the campaign.
Blackwell’s full-throated advocacy of publicly funded private school vouchers earned him praise from some of the nation’s most ardent advocates of school privatization.
For instance, voucher warrior and affirmative action foe Clint Bolick said the voucher movement “has no greater friend than Ken Blackwell.” And voucher pusher Patrick Byrne, also the impresario of the “65% Deception,” praised Blackwell’s “passion” for vouchers. Voucher backers made sure that the money kept rolling in. Blackwell’s campaign received at least $100, 000 from voucher groups such as Bolick’s Advocates for School Choice
But on Election Day, Blackwell received just under 37% of the vote.
In spite of that dramatic evidence that vouchers and other privatization schemes do not enjoy wide-spread public support in Ohio, and research showing the same nationally, Blackwell soldiers on. In his first published column since joining the staff of the Family Research Council, Blackwell attacks Governor Strickland’s groundbreaking plan to eliminate the EdChoice voucher program and redirect the money back to Ohio’s public schools:
Calling school vouchers “undemocratic” and charter schools a “dismal failure,” Gov. Strickland, in his first major public policy address, slammed the door of educational opportunity on thousands of poor children and crushed the hopes of their parents.
By denying these children the equal access to a quality education that choice programs offer, he also denied that the bloated public education bureaucracy and its entrenched unions have failed our children.
Despite Blackwell’s assertion that voucher programs offer students “equal access,” private schools can choose who to accept – many deny admission to all students with special needs – and students who currently receive vouchers do not have the ‘choice’ to attend any school they wish. Last year, Ohio voters had a choice, and elected a governor openly committed to funding and strengthening Ohio’s public schools – and focusing on proven reforms – as the best way to ensure that all children have access to a quality education.