Ohio’s Cleveland Scholarship Program was enacted in 1995 and launched in 1996. Through this program, students who attend the Cleveland Metropolitan School District can receive vouchers to attend neighboring public schools or private schools. Learn more about the program’s eligibility, funding, requirements, regulations, and more on this page.
Parents in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District can receive vouchers to send their children to private school or public schools bordering the school district.
The maximum voucher value is $4,250 for grades K–8 and $5,700 for high school. Families with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level receive vouchers worth 90 percent of tuition, whereas families above the 200 percent level receive vouchers worth 75 percent of tuition. Parents whose household income is more than the 200 percent threshold agree to pay the remaining tuition. Ohio’s state budget includes $11.9 million in funding for the biennium.
Children in grades K–12 in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District are eligible. Priority is given to families with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($48,500 for a family of four in 2015–16). Children from families with incomes above 200 percent of poverty are eligible to receive vouchers if approved by the Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction. Participating private schools must accept voucher students on a random basis, giving preference to low-income students if they have more applicants than open seats.
Cleveland’s voucher program, one of the oldest in the country, could use some refurbishment. Funding for the program is severely restricted, often times below what a private school is able to charge in tuition. Voucher amounts should be closer to what the public school system spends per student ($13,908) and at least should be closer to what the public school district receives in state-only aid ($7,866). Such funding increases would greatly benefit the poorest families and schools who would have struggled to make up the difference in cost. Private school regulations are burdensome, which can lower the number of private schools willing to participate. Mandatory minimum class size requirements, and at the K–3 level, enrollment based on random lottery, income level, and previous enrollment are examples of the heavier-handed regulations with which many private schools take issue. Additionally, the school must administer annual tests each year and report that data to the state department of education. A bright spot for the program is that parents above the income threshold are able to participate albeit at a reduced funding level.
On June 27, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Cleveland school voucher program does not violate the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; that vouchers are constitutional when parents have independent, private choice of schools without favoring or disfavoring religion. By design, the voucher program is “school neutral.” Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002).