GALION — The expansion of Ohio’s school voucher program is not setting well with public school officials around the state.
Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 89 (SB89) into law last week. That measure allows for the expansion of Ohio’s EdChoice Program, which allows students from low-performing schools or low-income school districts to apply for vouchers that can be used to pay for them to attend private and religious schools.
The legislation allows parents to apply for the vouchers if their children are enrolled in schools ranked in the bottom 30% of the performance index rankings. It also expands eligibility for all students in districts that have an enrollment of 20% or more low-income students. SB89 also increases the income-based voucher program so students are eligible if they are at 250% of the poverty level. Previous legislation only provided eligibility to students at 200% of the poverty level.
Jennifer Allerding, superintendent of Galion City Schools, said this week that she is “very disappointed in the latest developments of the ‘overhaul’ by the General Assembly.”
“While the EdChoice program appears to provide families the simple choice to utilize funds provided to districts and funnel them to private education institutions for their child, the system creates an unfair system for public schools,” Allerding said. She noted that Galion City Schools pays out more than $40,000 annually to private schools under the state’s voucher program.
Allerding noted that the state is utilizing data from 2014, 2018, and 2019 to determine the designation of “EdChoice Schools,” a method she believes is flawed, and the schools receiving the funding are not being held to the same standards of accountability as public schools.
“I am disappointed that the state is utilizing data from almost over seven years ago to determine eligibility for students today,” Allerding said. “I am as equally disheartened that the private institutions we are forced to send dollars to are not required to take the same assessments or play by the same rules as public-school districts. If the expectations and requirements were the same for all schools, it would be easier to accept and would give a true picture of how these schools really compare.
“I am proud of our schools and the work that is done on a daily basis to care for all students. While we continue to work to improve our practices, I believe that staff we have in place today — in 2020 — provides our students with an excellent academic experience and works hard to develop leaders of tomorrow.”
SB89 passed its final vote in the Ohio House by a margin of 53-36, mainly along party lines. Five Republican representatives voted against it.
In the Senate, the bill passed 24-8, completely along party lines.
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