Ohio enacted and launched its Income-Based Scholarship Program in 2013. It offers private school vouchers to students from low- and lower middle-income households. These school voucher amounts vary depending on family income. Continue reading to learn more about this program’s funding, eligibility, regulations, governing statutes, and more.
Income-qualified students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade are eligible for vouchers to attend private schools, provided they are not eligible for Ohio’s other voucher programs. Third-grade students will be eligible starting in the 2016–17 school year.
Vouchers are worth up to $4,650, not to exceed the private school’s actual tuition and fees. Voucher amounts fluctuate based on family income.
In the third year of the program, students are eligible if they are incoming, first-time kindergartners, first-grade, or second-grade students from families with incomes (1) no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($48,500 for a family of four in 2015-16) for a maximum voucher, (2) above 200 percent but no more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($72,750 for a family of four in 2015–16) for a voucher worth $3,487.50, or 3) above 300 percent but no more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($97,000 for a family of four in 2015–16) for a voucher worth $2,325. If more applications are received than available vouchers, priority will be given first to students who received vouchers in the previous year, second to students from families with incomes at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level ($24,250 for a family of four in 2015–16), and third to students from families with incomes between 100 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Once they receive a voucher, a student is eligible in future years unless their family income exceeds 400 percent of the federal poverty level. Only students from low-income families who do not qualify for the EdChoice Scholarship Program are eligible.
The enrollment cap in Ohio’s new Income-Based Scholarship Program is one area where this program has seen improvement. It was arbitrarily limited to 2,000 full vouchers to kindergartners for the first year, but now, the number of scholarships will be limited by the total appropriation for the program. At least 5,053 scholarships will be available in 2016 ($23.5 million/$4,650 per scholarship). At least 6,774 scholarships will be available in 2017 ($31.5 million/$4,650 per scholarship). The income thresholds for families in the program allow for job growth and additional income, a model other states could follow. Because Ohio has five school choice programs, it could seek to streamline each of those under the original EdChoice voucher program by raising and restructuring the eligibility caps, and sun-setting the other programs. This would lower administrative costs for the state, could expand eligibility, and would help increase parent understanding of educational choice, which would likely boost participation.
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.