EdChoice advocates push for legislative aid in keeping program

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The sudden expansion of the state’s school voucher program to include schools that have received high overall performance grades is not what many lawmakers intended.

Based on current law the number of schools to be considered voucher eligible is set to triple for the 2020-2021 school year.

“We have schools that are A, B, quite a few that are not considered low performing schools by any stretch of the imagination,” said Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Dayton. “That needs to get fixed.”

The change in eligibility is pegged to the school report card system that has included a grade for progress from one year to the next called “value added.” 

The problem is that schools already performing at a high level are not likely to show much progress. But giving those schools a failing grade for “value added” made the students at those schools eligible for vouchers.

Ohio’s school voucher program started in 2005. It is intended to give students in underperforming public schools a choice to attend a private school. The public school districts pay $4,650 to 6,000 per student toward private school tuition.

Republican Sen. Matt Dolan from Cuyahoga County is proposing an amendment that would exclude eligibility for students attending a public school that received an overall performance grade of A, B, C or D.

“My amendment is saying, ‘Hold on, we want choice to be viewed for those schools that are actually failing their constituencies and most of those schools are not,’” Dolan said.

School voucher signup officially opens on Feb. 1

Advocates at the statehouse Tuesday argued that lawmakers should leave the expansion of the program in place to give more parents a choice.

“When they passed this budget in 2019, they made a promise to parents and that promise is going to kick in in about two weeks on Feb. 1 when the Ed Choice window opens and now we have lawmakers considering pulling the rug out from under these parents,” said Aaron Baer, president of Citizens for Community Values.

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