Ohio’s public schools could lose millions of dollars to private schools through an expansion of the state’s biggest voucher program.
New rules on criteria for the EdChoice program in the most recent budget have increased the number of school buildings considered “failing” by more than 400 percent.
Last year, 238 buildings were considered failing. That will be up to more than 1220 by the end of 2021, the second year of the budget. By then, 70 percent of the state’s public school districts will have a building where students qualify for private school vouchers paid for with funds from public schools.
“This has ballooned into a list that really no one saw coming," said Ohio School Boards Association lobbyist Will Schwartz.
Schwartz said the expansion could add up to $65,000 per student from kindergarten through graduation. “Depending on the district and depending on how many students are eligible, they’re looking at millions and millions of dollars that they’re required to pay for this," he said.
And there's another new change, said Schwartz - some districts may end up paying vouchers for high school students who've never attended a public school.
"In some instances due to the budget’s expansion for high school eligibility, many districts are not even being funded for certain students that attended private schools who they’re now required to pay their non-public school tuition and they never set foot or even planned to step foot in their public school buildings," Schwartz said.
Schwartz is hoping lawmakers will consider changes, such as measuring performance for three consecutive years or requiring high school students to attend a public school for a year before applying for a voucher.