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. Continue reading to learn more about this program’s funding, eligibility, regulations, governing statutes, and more.
An expansion of Ohio’s “EdChoice” voucher program
10,830 participating students (2018–19)
34 percent of families with children income-eligible statewide
405 participating schools (2018–19)
Average voucher value: $4,097 (2017–18)
Value as a percentage of public school per-student spending: 35 percent
Income-qualified students in grades K–6 are eligible for vouchers to attend private schools, provided they are not eligible for Ohio’s other voucher programs. All income-qualified K–12 students will be eligible starting in the 2020–21 school year.
Vouchers are worth up to $4,650, not to exceed the private school’s actual tuition and fees. Families may receive 75 percent ($3,487.50) and 50 percent ($2,325) vouchers if they are renewing their child’s Income-Based Scholarship and earn up to 300 percent and 400 percent, respectively, of the federal poverty level.
This program and the Educational Choice Scholarship program currently have a combined enrollment cap of 60,000 students. If 90 percent of the cap is reached in any year, it will increase by 5 percent in the subsequent year.
For the 2019–20 school year, students are eligible if they are incoming, first-time students in grades K–6 from families with income no more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($51,500 for a family of four in 2019–20). Those at or below this income level are eligible for maximum vouchers ($4,650) when they first apply and renew their vouchers. All income-qualified K–12 students will be eligible starting in the 2020–21 school year. Only students from low-income families who do not qualify for the Educational Choice Scholarship Program are eligible.
Those who renew their Income-Based Scholarship may earn between 200 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($77,250 for a family of four in 2019–20) to receive a voucher worth $3,487. Those who renew their scholarship may earn between 300 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level ($103,000 for a family of four in 2019–20) to receive a voucher worth $2,325.
If there are more applications 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 ($25,750 for a family of four in 2019–20) 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.
The enrollment cap in Ohio’s Income-Based Scholarship Program is one area in which this program has improved. It was limited to merely 2,000 full vouchers to kindergartners for the first year, but now, the number of scholarships is (along with the EdChoice Scholarship Program) capped at 60,000 vouchers and automatically grows to meet rising demand. 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 parents’ understanding of their educational choice options, which would likely boost participation.
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
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