Among his ideas for education funding, state Rep. Andrew Brenner is proposing special license plates that endorse school choice. The Powell Republican is crafting a bill that would route a portion of the cost of the plates to School Choice Ohio, a nonprofit that supports voucher programs and charter schools.
Brenner is following the example set by the Lake Erie Protection Fund, which raises money for the protection and preservation of the lake. Plates designed by the Lake Erie Commission cost an extra $25, with $15 going to the fund.
Leaving aside the relative insignificance of the amount that would be raised (the Lake Erie plates raise about $200,000 a year; the state spends about $8 billion on schools), Brenner’s proposal ignores the fact that the state already has a mechanism for allocating resources to education, and other priorities, too, for that matter.
It is the state budget, which (thankfully) does not rely on voluntary mechanisms such as license plate purchases and tax return checkoffs. It is through the budget process that the legislature sets educational priorities, then balances them against other needs and available revenues.
This is complicated, difficult work, not easily or appropriately reduced to a slogan on a license plate. With the possible exception of the tax checkoff to support political parties, which avoids the conflict of interest that would crop up if legislators tried to help, the best way to decide how to fund state programs remains the budget bill.