Every Ohio family can now get a private school voucher

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio — An Ohio program that already directs more than $100 million of public money to private schools will undergo a massive expansion this school year.

Recent legislative changes to the state’s EdChoice Expansion Scholarship Program mean every Ohio family, regardless of income or school district, is now eligible for financial aid to pay private school tuition.

Ohio families who earn up to 450% of the federal poverty level ($135,000 for a family of four) can receive the full amount of the scholarship offered for the 2023-2024 school year: $8,407 for high school students and $6,165 for K-8 students.

Families with incomes higher than 450% of the federal poverty level are still eligible for financial aid but are subject to a sliding scale based on their annual income.

Families with incomes above 751% of the federal poverty level can also still receive financial aid. For example, a family of four with an income of $225,000 is eligible to receive $650 for K-8 and $950 for high school during the 2023-2024 school year.

The program’s expansion comes with a high price tag for Ohio taxpayers. Lawmakers budgeted approximately two billion dollars over the next two years to cover the costs of expanding the program.

Before the changes state lawmakers enacted this spring, only families whose incomes were at or below 250% of the federal poverty level ($75,000 for a family of four) were eligible for the vouchers.

Private school payouts

News 5 Investigators found Ohio already directs more than $100 million taxpayer dollars to private schools through EdChoice Expansion vouchers.

According to ODE’s data, during the 2021-22 school year, the total payments added up to $102,935,946.08.

Four schools each received more than $1 million during the 2021-22 school year, including three in Northeast Ohio:

  1. Mansfield Christian School (Mansfield) – $1,293,963.86
  2. Lake Center Christian School (Lake Township) – $1,100,290.48
  3. Sunrise Academy (Hilliard) – $1,076,680.00
  4. Saint John School (Ashtabula) – $1,044,585.00

We found more than $11 million went to private schools in Cuyahoga County.
The top recipients were:

  • Yeshiva Derech Hatorah (Cleveland Heights) – $882,750.00
  • St. Benedict Catholic School (Garfield Heights) – $559,959.00
  • St. Charles Borromeo School (Parma) – $512,747.11

Ohio has changed how it funds EdChoice Expansion over the last few years. Money was directly deducted from the school district where the student receiving the scholarship lived. Funding now comes directly from the state budget, which makes it more difficult to discern how many students receiving vouchers have only attended private schools.

See also  Travis Barker performs with nine-year-old blind boy in LA and makes donation for him to travel the world

READ MORE: Most students who benefit from Ohio EdChoice Expansion vouchers have always attended private school

Below, view a data visualization and searchable database of schools in the EdChoice Expansion program in 2021-2022:

Ohio Dept. of Education

A top Ohio education official said making universal vouchers through EdChoice Expansion “underscores” Ohio’s commitment to meeting every student’s needs.

Colleen Grady, senior program officer at the Ohio Department of Education, oversees the EdChoice Expansion Scholarship Program.

“The state of Ohio has a vested interest, if you will, in making sure that all students receive an education that best fits their needs, regardless of income level, ethnicity, any kind of student characteristics,” she said. “This program provides the most help to those families that wouldn’t otherwise be able to consider private education while providing some help to taxpayers who may be a little bit more fortunate.”

When asked why Ohio should give money to even the wealthiest students in the state, Grady said, “All people that live in the state of Ohio are paying taxes, we’re all taxpayers, we all derive some benefit, some more than others, based on other programs, but we do have a tradition in this state of supporting education and so, in this case, this would allow for some limited support for higher income families.”

?url=http%3A%2F%2Fewscripps-brightspot.s3.amazonaws.com%2Fdd%2F0d%2Fd3b9dad845159e3b557c6e35b68d%2Ffamily.pngDownload Image
Image Name: ?url=http%3A%2F%2Fewscripps-brightspot.s3.amazonaws.com%2F16%2Fbf%2F2eeba71a489583473cb1bc32713c%2Fparma-school.png

Grady said that “there’s a misunderstanding” about the state’s voucher programs.

“I think the suggestion that the state of Ohio is incapable of expanding educational choice and supporting those choices, including the public districts, is inaccurate,” she said.

“The idea behind educational choice is that the parents, not me, not you, not somebody telling a parent, is in the best position to make that choice for their child,” Grady said. “If we’re talking about funding, I look at it as education funding, funding to help children develop their skills and their knowledge, and that’s something that we all want in the state of Ohio for all of our children.”

“At this point in time, there is no evidence that the support for the scholarship programs and school choice has lessened the resources or the support that is provided to traditional public districts,” she said. “Funding continues to go up for these districts, even, in some cases, as their enrollment drops.”

See also  Panoramic Information Biden and Ticketing Giants Take a Stand Against Hidden Junk Fees day 16/06/2023

Policy Matters Ohio

Tanisha Pruitt, a youth, opportunity, and education researcher with Policy Matters Ohio, a progressive think tank, disagreed with Grady’s assessment of the voucher expansion.

Pruitt studies K-12 funding in Ohio. She described the expansion of school vouchers as “harmful” to public schools.

“We’re putting too much money into one system (private) while we’re neglecting the other,” Pruitt said. “We have so many issues going on the state, in our public schools, that this money could potentially be going towards to help mitigate (bus shortages, teacher shortages), but instead, it’s going instead to serve… the interests of a few people who want to choose these other options.”

According to Pruitt, money for vouchers could be going towards the Fair School Funding Plan, which attempts to create a more equitable school funding system in Ohio. In a 1994 court ruling (DeRolph v. State of Ohio), a judge determined the state’s system was unconstitutional.

Pruitt said the system is similar to “The Hunger Games,” the popular dystopian novels where two children from 12 Districts are forced to fight each other to the death, with the winner receiving resources for their District.

“Cities were pitted against each other,” Pruitt said, “The wealthier your district was, the better your chances were for success and being educated in Ohio.”

Ohio still ranks near the bottom, at 46th, when it comes to the equitable distribution of school funding among U.S. states.

Her research also notes it is more difficult for Ohio families to qualify for other types of state aid, including help with food, child care, and health care.

“Those things that benefit kids and families, that’s what we need most,” she said. “Not vouchers.”

The vast majority of Ohio students attend public schools; there were 1,672,198 students who attended public school during the 2021-2022 school year, according to data collected by the Ohio Department of Education. During the same year, 167,395 students attended private schools.

“When it comes down to the choice and being able to choose, they [families] should be able to choose, to give their student the best option,” she said. “But… at what cost does that come to the majority of students in the state?”

See also  Ariana Grande Got a New Tattoo of Glinda From ‘Wicked’ – Billboard

Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District

Dan Heintz, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education member, agreed with Pruitt.

“We’re going to have a smaller pot of money available to our school district to educate our children,” he said. “It’s the same line item that is going to flow $1 billion a year into the hands of private schools. That billion dollars will come off first. And what is left will then be then divided up to educate the 90 percent of Ohio schoolchildren who use the public schools.”

Heintz, a high school teacher, also serves on the steering committee of “Vouchers Hurt Ohio,” a group of dozens of Ohio school districts who have filed a lawsuit against the state alleging EdChoice is unconstitutional.

“The Ohio Constitution very specifically says that we are to fund a system of common schools,” Heintz said. “Singular, not plural.”

“The EdChoice voucher system is creating two different systems of schools,” he said. “Both funded by taxpayers. One that is accountable to taxpayers, one that is transparent to taxpayers, and one that is not either of those things.”

“Private schools do not operate with an elected board overseeing them, private schools do not have to follow the Freedom of Information Act, private schools do not have to report anything about how the funds, their funds, are being spent,” he added. “Public schools do all of those things, and so by funding EdChoice vouchers and sending what will likely be about $1 billion of Ohio taxpayers’ money each year to private schools, the legislature continues to violate Ohio’s constitution.”

Heintz said taxpayers may not yet be fully aware of the amount of public money now being diverted to religious schools, non-profits, and businesses that run private schools.

“I think that, in the weeks that will follow, we’re going to see more and more Ohio citizens waking up to the notion that $1 billion of their tax dollars are going into private hands,” he said.

Public education is the greatest promise we make our children,” he said. “It’s really important to see that today’s students get the best education, the best opportunities that we can provide them.”

appId : '117981068372285',

xfbml : true, version : 'v2.9' }); }; (function(d, s, id){ var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) {return;} js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = " js.async = true; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

Related Posts