House to discontinue voucher program

EdChoice will be discontinued and replaced with new income-based system

The Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill that will discontinue the EdChoice student voucher program. Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder believes the new income-based program will “change the game.”

Major steps toward changing the performance-based voucher system for schools in Ohio were taken last week. In an 88-7 vote, the Ohio House of Representatives passed a bill, now known as S.B. 89, that aims to replace the EdChoice program with a new one called Buckeye Opportunity.

However, this new bill is in contention with a Senate bill passed two weeks prior, which would have continued the Ed-Choice program.

EdChoice currently awards nearly $5,000 annually to K-8 vouchers and $6,000 for high school vouchers, depending on how a school ranks within the Ohio school report card system.

Buckeye Opportunity Scholarships, however, are fashioned as an income-based system which seeks to put the students with financial need at the front of the line for receiving needed funding.

Students in the Ohio public school system who currently receive performance-based vouchers from the EdChoice program will still be able to receive them, along with a few other minor exceptions. Aside from that, the program will be discontinued for the rest of Ohio’s residents.

The Ohio Senate, however, has a different plan.

A bipartisan bill was passed two weeks ago keeping the EdChoice program, but instead cutting the number of schools which are able to apply for it from 1,227 to 425.

This bill increases the income-based voucher limit to 300% of the federal poverty level, providing an extra $30 million for those who could benefit the most.

Last year’s voucher expansion, which reduced the amount of money available, has made it harder on impoverished school communities across Ohio.

School systems have had to ask for levy increases in order to be able to fund all of the voucher requests they have received. The House and the Senate were initially unable to come to some sort of a compromise, pushing back the start of EdChoice applications from Feb. 1 to April 1.

A group of parents, private education institutions and other advocates filed a lawsuit as a result to the Ohio Supreme Court. The aim of the suit is to allow for the 1,227 building applicants to begin applying in spite of the 60-day deadline extension.

The Buckeye scholarships are guaranteed to students whose families make under 250% of the federal poverty level, which shakes out to be around $65,000 a year for a family of four.

“If we can (S.B. 89) this through … I think this changes the game. It gives us the opportunity to meet with stakeholders in education and have honest discussions about kids and their education and not who is going to get this almighty dollar,” Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder, a Republican from Glenford said. 

This issue of school funding has proven itself to be a bipartisan one, with both Democrats and Republicans agreeing that a change is needed.

The consensus has built up that the grading system used in Ohio to determine performance-based vouchers does not reflect the level of education a student is receiving.

“S.B. is one step in the process,” Representative Phil Robinson, a Democrat from Solon, said. “We still have a broken report card system, we still need to fix our testing system and we still need to address school funding.” The Senate Republicans intend to vote down the motion presented by the House. The measure has not been transferred over to the Senate because of a technic