David DeWitt

Meanwhile, Ohio ranks in the bottom half of all states on education, economy, environment, infrastructure, and health care.

by David DeWitt

You wouldn’t know it from Gov. Mike DeWine’s State of the State Wednesday, but Ohioans are currently suffering under a state government captured by corruption and yoked to extremist lawmakers racked with dysfunction and intent on little more than imposing radical ideology from the safety of unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts.

Sweetheart Republican special interests often get everything they ask for in Ohio, while community advocates fighting every day to obtain proven policy solutions that improve the lives of Ohioans get largely ignored. Wealthy families and corporations continue to do phenomenally in the Buckeye State while millions get left behind, or outright attacked.

Back in 2010, Ohio was ranked by Education Week as having the 5th best public school system in the nation. Education Week’s last ranking was in 2021 and put Ohio at No. 20. A recent ranking from U.S. News & World Report puts Ohio education at No. 29. If you break those numbers down, Ohio sits at No. 21 for Pre-K to 12 education, and No. 37 for higher education.

State disinvestment from higher education is one of the primary drivers of our country’s vastly over-inflated higher education costs and subsequent record student loan debt.

The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics calculated state support for higher education per full-time student in 2021. Ohio ranked No. 40 in the amount of money we provide to fund higher education, giving about $5,600 per student compared to a national average of nearly $8,000.

So are gerrymandered Ohio lawmakers thinking of how they can help better support our storied and cherished institutions of higher learning as they grapple with enrollment declines and right-sizing? No. They are attacking them. They are attacking freedom of speech and expression in the classroom, and any efforts toward diversity on campuses.

They’ve proposed and then walked back their ultimate desire to attack tenure and collective bargaining, and in accordance with their own weird preoccupations, they also want to force transgender people on campus to use restrooms that do not match their gender identity and appearance.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has meanwhile put the fear into Ohio colleges over awarding any diversity scholarships. Our student loan debt at college graduation is higher than the national average, and our high school graduation rate is below the national average.

Regarding K-12, Ohio was giving out $69 million worth of private school vouchers in 2008. In 2023, gerrymandered Ohio lawmakers imposed near-universal private school voucher eligibility. This year, Ohio public funding of private school vouchers is on track to be more than $1 billion by June.

Who is all the new voucher money going to? Mostly to families whose children were already attending private school. As for the 90% of Ohio K-12 students who attend public school, many are in cash-strapped districts facing budget cuts.

Ohio doesn’t fare much better in any of the other rankings by U.S. News & World Report. Overall, it puts us at No. 34.

Ohio ranks No. 31 in crime and corrections; No. 37 in economy; No. 42 in natural environment; No. 32 in infrastructure; and No. 29 in health care.

Take heart though, Ohio is sitting on $3.5 billion in the state’s rainy day fund and ranks No. 14 in fiscal responsibility. But don’t go counting those chickens just yet. Gerrymandered Ohio lawmakers want to end state income taxes, which would leave a $13 billion state budget deficit.

They say they could make up the money by raising the sales tax, cutting spending, and letting the economy allegedly “fix itself.” In other words, the rich get richer while everybody else pays a higher percentage of our income for other taxes and fees to make up the difference, and low-income families get their support services cut. This, in a state where 1 in 5 children already suffer food insecurity.

But wait, what’s this? Ohio ranks No. 11 in “opportunity”? What’s that mean? Well, it’s not economic opportunity. For that we rank No. 35. But it is affordable to live in Ohio, so we grabbed a No. 16 ranking for that.

Nevertheless, our median household income is below the national average and our poverty rate is above the national average. Ohio also has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the country, and ranks No. 29 in income inequality, with the top 1% of Ohioans taking home nearly 16% of all of the income in the state.

We often hear from our leaders about what a great place Ohio is to do business. Surely we have a top-notch ranking there then, right? No. We rank No. 29 in business environment, No. 34 in growth, and No. 42 in employment.

We crack the top half of states on health care when it comes to access (No. 24) and quality (No. 23), but our public health is abysmal, coming in at No. 42. Our pollution ranking is also abysmal, at No. 45. Columbus even recently won the crown for most-polluted city in America. And even though gerrymandered lawmakers have now opened our beautiful state parks and lands to fracking, we still rank No. 35 on energy.

The national average for renewable energy usage is 12.3%, and Ohio’s is 4.4%. We once had one of the robust commitments to alternative energy in the nation, but, if you’ll recall, that corrupt Ohio House Bill 6 law that DeWine signed same-day that was the product of a $60 million political bribery and money laundering scheme that awarded a $1.3 billion bailout to FirstEnergy and a couple of failing coal-fired plants? It also gutted the state’s renewable energy portfolio.

Insult to injury, gerrymandered Ohio lawmakers and DeWine also stripped Ohio communities of home rule when it comes to fossil fuel rigs, but made sure local solar projects could be astroturfed and attacked into oblivion.

This may all sound pretty bleak, because it is.

But hey, buck up, Ohio. We may not be No. 1 in anything. (In fact, we don’t even crack the Top Ten in anything good.) But at the end of the day, at least we can pick up our kids from one of our under-funded public schools or colleges, gather with our over-worked and under-paid family and friends, and get out in the sun to enjoy some pollution.

We could picnic at one of our favorite state parks, and take in the soothing views of a fracking operation.

“We’re No. 34! We’re No. 34!”


David DeWitt

Ohio Capital Journal Editor-in-Chief and Opinion Columnist David DeWitt has been covering government, politics, and policy in Ohio since 2007, including education, health care, crime and the courts, poverty, state and local government, business, labor, energy, the environment, and social issues. He has worked for the National Journal, The New York Observer, and The Athens NEWS. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and is a board member of the E.W. Scripps Society of Alumni and Friends. He can be found on X @DC_DeWitt

Ohio Capital Journal is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.


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