Cleveland Scholarship Program
- Enacted 1995
- Launched 1996
Parents in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District can receive vouchers to send their children to private school or public schools bordering the school district through the Cleveland Scholarship Program. Learn more about the program’s eligibility, funding, requirements, regulations and more on this page.
We do not administer this program.
Participating Students (2020-21)
of Students Eligible Districtwide
Participating Schools (Fall 2020)
Average Voucher Value (2019-20)
Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending
Ohio’s Cleveland Scholarship Program Participation
The maximum voucher value is $5,500 for students in grades K–8 and $7,500 for high school students. Schools must accept vouchers from K–8 recipients with a household income no greater than twice the federal poverty level as full tuition payment. Parents whose household income is more than the 200 percent threshold or whose student is in high school may pay the remaining tuition or provide in-kind services of the remaining tuition. Ohio’s state budget includes $23.5 million in deductions from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for the program in 2020–21.
Children in grades K–12 who reside in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District are eligible. Priority is given to families with incomes less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($52,400 for a family of four in 2020–21). 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 prioritize renewing scholarship recipients, siblings of enrolled students, and low-income students in admitting scholarship students; otherwise, participating private schools must accept voucher students on a random basis as space allows.
EdChoice Expert Feedback
Ohio’s Cleveland Scholarship Program helps thousands of students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do much more to expand educational opportunity.
All K–12 who reside in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District are eligible, but only 2.5 percent of students statewide actually use one of Ohio’s five educational choice programs (including the Autism Scholarship Program, the Educational Choice Scholarship Program, the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program, and the Income-Based Scholarship Program).
The average voucher value is about $4,900, which is about 34 percent of the average expenditure per student at Ohio’s district schools.
In order to expand access to educational choice, Ohio policymakers should expand eligibility to all students statewide and fund the vouchers on par with the per-pupil funding at district schools. The program could also be converted into an education savings account to ensure that all students have access to the education that’s the right fit for them, whether private school or a customized course of education.
Ohio’s voucher program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations. Participants are required to take a nationally norm-referenced assessment.
Rules and Regulations
- Income Limit: None (Priority given to families up to 200% x Poverty)
- Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
- Geographic Limit: District (Cleveland Metropolitan)
- Enrollment Cap: None
- Voucher Cap: $5,500 (K–8) / $7,500 (9–12)
- Testing Mandates: National
- Be licensed, registered and chartered by the state
- Prioritize admission of voucher students based for returning students, siblings of enrolled students, and low-income students
- Otherwise, admit voucher students on a random basis as space allows
- Meet state standards for chartered nonpublic schools
- Accept voucher as full tuition for K–8 students whose family income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold
- Comply with state laws regarding nondiscrimination and health and safety codes
- Administer to voucher students a nationally norm-referenced test approved by the state department of education
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)
The Ohio Supreme Court had previously struck down the Cleveland voucher program, Simmons-Harris v. Goff, 711 N.E.2d 203 (Ohio 1999), ruling it was unconstitutional because the legislation adopting the voucher program violated the single subject rule. However, the court also held that the voucher program did not violate the state constitution’s compelled support or education clauses and did not violate the Federal constitution’s Establishment Clause.
Cleveland Scholarship Program State Groups
That Support School Choice
School Choice Ohio works to ensure that families across the state know about the education options available for their children. They also advocate for the expansion of quality options for every child.