May 22, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Ohio becomes 8th state to enact universal school choice in the last two years

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With a stroke of his pen, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed into law the nation’s eighth School Choice legislation, all comingin the last two years.

The Buckeye State joins Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma, Utah and West Virginia. Afterward, Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at the American Federation for Children declared:

“The dam is breaking for the government school monopoly.”

Details of Ohio’s two-year, $2 billion program, as reported in The Dayton Daily News provide for expansion of the state’s current voucher program.  Students with family incomes up to 450% of the poverty line ($135,000 for a family of four) can receive a full voucher under income guidelines. Previously, the limit was 250% of poverty.

Above the 450% threshold, students can still receive a percentage of the full scholarship, with a minimum of 10% available to all students, regardless of family income.

To help secure passage of the measure, both the scholarship amounts and public school funding will increase 12% next year. $1.54 billion of Ohio’s $86 billion budget will go into public school coffers. Nearly $6,200 will be set aside for K-8 students and $8,400 each for high schoolers to use for private schools or homeschooling.

Over 83,000 Ohio school children benefitted from the voucher program last year.

Kansas has limited school choice with its tax-exempt scholarship program. Although supportive of it, Governor Kelly has resisted efforts to enact an Ohio-like School Choice program to give Kansas kids educational options, even though she sent her own children to private school.

Ann Riddle of School Choice Ohio says her state’s journey to Choice took more than a quarter-century:

“The first scholarship program in Ohio was the Cleveland Scholarship and it was introduced in 1996 for students that lived in the Cleveland Municipal School District in a response to consistently underperforming schools and was declared Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2002.

“The next scholarship came in 2003 with the introduction of the Autism Scholarship for students on the autism spectrum for educational services from a private provider including tuition at a private school.  Then in 2005 the EdChoice scholarship was made available for students in Ohio that were in a designated (failing) district followed by EdChoice Expansion in 2013.  The Jon Peterson Scholarship began in 2012 and provided scholarships for students who have an Individualized Education Program (EIP) from their district of residence.

“Ohio has been blessed to have strong school choice leaders that were committed to helping students have the best educational choices possible.  Those people included Ohio Governor George Voinovich, Former Speaker of the House Bill Batchelder, Representative Bill Patmon, Senate President Matt Huffman, and a host of others.  These leaders worked and continue to work tirelessly to build on school choice programs in Ohio.”

Considerable opposition to choice in Kansas comes from rural legislators, who see it as a threat to school districts in their communities for generations. Riddle says transparency and public outreach overcame similar opposition in Ohio:

“Rural representatives were supportive of Traditional EdChoice but not as quick to support EdChoice Expansion (Income Based).  Two years ago, EdChoice Expansion increased eligibility to families at 250% of the FPL up from 200%.  Now, families at 450% FPL or below can receive the full scholarship amount and those students whose households are over 450% will receive reduced scholarships based on their household income.

“Expansion of the program were a result of organizations like School Choice Ohio working with families and the legislature to get this done.  That included meetings with representatives, school choice rallies, school visits, etc.”

Added Rabbi Eric “Yitz” Frank, President of School Choice Ohio:

“We and our allies have been very involved in educating and electing rural legislators for several election cycles. One of the messages that we have used, that I believe has helped is that while rural legislators may not have many alternative schooling options, it is very important for the state’s future to make sure that students who need the opportunities that choice provides, particularly in urban areas, have school choice options.

“Another important factor is the following message: It cannot be simultaneously true that rural students don’t even have other options and that school choice will negatively impact the public schools in rural areas. So, if choice isn’t useful for them it also can’t be harmful. In which case, do what’s right for students who do need school choice, even if they aren’t in your district.”

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