EdChoice Vouchers: How One Little Word Will Lead to Financial Hardship for Ohio’s Public Schools.

Madison-Champaign ESC, Urbana, Ohio – January 16, 2020 – In October of 2019, the Ohio Department of Education released the list of public schools that are designated for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year under the performance-based Educational Choice (“Edchoice”) Scholarship Program. Under this program, a student may receive a state scholarship to attend a participating chartered nonpublic school IF the student’s resident district meets one of a number of criteria, largely based on low performance on certain aspects of the state report card. The list for the upcoming school year has ballooned from 2018-2019, when only 255 schools in 31 districts were designated. For the upcoming school year the new number is 1227 schools in 426 districts. This increased number represents 42% of traditional schools in the state serving 620,000 students.

During the 2013-2014 school year, the school became eligible for the EdChoice Scholarship if the building had a D or F for BOTH the Value Added Component AND the Performance Index component.

By changing AND to OR in legislation, a school now becomes EdChoice eligible if it meets one of six criteria, four of which are based on the school’s report card results: 1) Performance, 2) Graduation, 3) Lowest 10% on Performance Index, and 4) Improving At-Risk Readers. The eligibility for EdChoice Scholarships is heavily dependent on the flawed Ohio Local Report Card. In HB 166 the General Assembly has agreed that the report card is in need of serious reform.

A prevalent issue which arises from this expansion of the EdChoice program is equity. This program was originally drafted for public school students to have an opportunity to attend another school with a proven track record of academic success. Many are using this scholarship to attend private schools who have an admission and selection process that is not inclusive in nature. In effect it has the potential of leading to a legalized form of segregation. In addition, taxpayers have not given the Ohio General Assembly permission to take public taxpayer dollars to pay for private school tuition. The other issue with this expansion is that students who never attended a single day in these newly eligible buildings can “take advantage” of the new criteria and be awarded a voucher to attend a chartered private school.

The eligibility is not using all recent data in determining school building eligibility. The data being used with this expansion program includes school years 13-14; 17-18; 18-19. By law, performance during more recent school years (14-15, 15-16, 16-17) could not be counted toward sanctions such as eligibility for the EdChoice program.

The impact of this ill-informed legislation will be financially and educationally devastating to Ohio’s public schools. For the current school year it is estimated that $148.2 million dollars will be transferred from school district’s foundation aid which is an increase of nearly $35 million dollars over the previous school year. With the change in eligibility of criteria the amount that will be siphoned off next year will be even higher; and for many districts, catastrophic in nature.

There are a number of short-term fixes for the EdChoice Voucher Program that have been proposed by most educational organizations in the state. The bottom line is that the state should directly fund new vouchers, by providing a state appropriation to cover the cost during this current biennium to help public schools avoid a potential funding disaster.

Community members and staff members are encouraged to make contact with your area legislators to voice your concern with this faulty legislation.

In Champaign County reach out to:
Representative Nino Vitale 614-466-1507
And Senator Matt Huffman 614-466-7584

In Madison County reach out to:
Representative Bill Dean 614-466-1470
And Senator Robert Hackett 614-466-3780

Contact:
Dr. Daniel R. Kaffenbarger
daniel.kaffenbarger@mccesc.org
Madison-Champaign ESC
2200 S. US Highway 68
Urbana, Ohio 43078