Ohio’s “EdChoice” scholarship program, enacted in 2005 and launched in 2006, offers private school vouchers to K–12 students who are assigned to “low-performing” public schools. Participating private schools are required to accept the voucher as full tuition for students whose families are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Learn more about this program’s funding, eligibility and regulations on this page.
Ohio students attending chronically low-performing public schools are eligible for Educational Choice vouchers to attend private schools. The cap on available vouchers is 60,000.
Vouchers are worth up to $4,650 in grades K–8 and $6,000 in grades 9–12, not to exceed the private school’s actual tuition and fees. Participating schools may charge remaining tuition or require in-kind services for the portion of tuition not covered by the voucher for students whose household incomes exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty level, but must accept the voucher as payment in full for students at or below the 200 percent level.
Students are eligible for the program if the student’s resident district is not a school district in which the pilot project scholarship program is operating and the student satisfies one of the following conditions: The student attends a local public school that has received a grade D or F by the state’s performance index score; the student is assigned to a charter school but would otherwise be assigned to a “low-performing” public school; the student attends a local public school that was ranked in the lowest 10 percent of public schools in two of the three most recent rankings and the public school was not declared to be excellent or effective in the most recent rating system; or the student is enrolling in grades K–12 for the first time and would be assigned to a qualifying school as long as they are at least 5 years old by Jan. 1 of the school year
Although a large number of children are eligible under the Educational Choice program, it is extremely difficult to inform parents about their options. The fluid nature of public school rankings makes it hard for parents to be informed of their eligibility year over year. A simpler system, one that is universal or tied to income only, would be easier to administer. Scholarship funding is another sore spot, as private schools must accept the amount as payment in full for the poorest children. This may limit a parent’s choice of schools. Additionally, participating schools must administer the state tests and report those scores back to the state department of education, increasing regulatory and compliance costs for those schools. Such mandates could discourage private schools from participating and create a strong incentive for participating schools to narrow their curriculum and “teach to the test.” Allowing schools to choose from a menu of nationally norm-referenced tests would more appropriately balance accountability and autonomy. Ohio would be wise to simplify this voucher program, tie eligibility to something less prone to fluctuations, allow parents to determine which tests their children take in private schools and remove the unnecessary reporting requirements.
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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