When teachers in Columbus, Ohio went on strike, a Christian public policy organization launched a billboard campaign urging parents to consider taking their children out of the public school system.
“Columbus City Schools lock kids out… again. Your child may be eligible for a scholarship or free tuition to a private school,” declare five billboards across the city, paid for by the Center for Christian Virtue (CCV), referencing the state’s EdChoice scholarship program which makes public funds available for qualifying students to attend private schools.
The move follows the recent CCV-led launch of a new private Christian school serving low-income communities. Westside Christian School just opened at Memorial Baptist Church, in the Hilltop area of Columbus, with plans for similar church-based schools to open in the coming year.
The initiative to make use of church facilities otherwise vacant during the workweek was prompted by concerns about failing educational standards in the public school.
With the recent strike and ensuing school closures, Columbus City Schools (CCS) had “reached a new low,” CCV president Aaron Baer said in a news release. “After everything children have endured for the last three years, from being locked out of school under the guise of ‘safety protocols’ to being subjected to failing educational standards, now the schools have kicked kids out yet again, mere days before they were to report to class.”
The news release also says the teachers’ strike kept children at home in spite of past poor attendance rates during remote learning.
“If there’s one lesson we learned during the pandemic, it is that there is no such thing in CCS as ‘remote learning,’” Baer said. “There may be ‘remote teaching’, but no actual learning is happening.”
Baer also criticized the school district’s funding of a lawsuit seeking to abolish EdChoice. Instead, he said, the Ohio General Assembly needed to “fix our broken education system by funding students, not systems, and passing the Backpack Bill,” which would be an expansion of the current school choice options in the state.
Though the teachers and district have just reached an agreement ending the strike, the billboard campaign is set to run for another week. The signs direct parents to a website supporting the Backpack bill and containing the message, “take advantage of your educational freedom opportunity” so that students can “attend the private school of your choice!”
The website sets out a three-step process: First, parents need to make sure their children qualify for the scholarship, using an online link to complete the form. Then they need to enroll in a private school, with the site offering links to 10 “excellent Christian schools,” including Westside Christian, that accept the EdChoice scholarship.
Finally, once their children have been accepted, parents are told, they need to complete a scholarship request form, which the school uses to submit an EdChoice application.