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How Ohio Spent $103 Million a Year on Private School Vouchers

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that found Ohio’s private school voucher program did not violate the separation of church and state. Vouchers are publicly funded  subsidies -- some prefer the term scholarships -- for private school tuition.

Since that Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case, state spending on voucher programs has risen more than ten fold.

Here's what that looks like:

Ohio Voucher Usage and Spending

Source: Ohio Department of Education, School Choice Ohio | Download Data

  • State spending on vouchers reached $102.7 million in 2010-11. To put it in context, that's close to what it cost to operate the 5,500-student Shaker Heights school district in 2010.

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Ohio has four types of voucher programs:

  • Statewide EdChoice Vouchers: For students assigned to traditional public schools receiving the lowest or second lowest state ratings for two of the past three years or in the bottom 10 percent of schools statewide, based on standardized test scores.
  • Cleveland Vouchers: For Cleveland students only.
  • Special Needs Vouchers: Students with autism can get up to $20,000 to spend on an education outside of their assigned school districts. And starting in the 2012-13 school year, students with any type of disability can get up to $20,000 to spend on private schools, tutoring services or therapists or at some public schools.

And they're growing rapidlly:

  • Last year, lawmakers expanded vouchers to students with disabilities in any district. Previously, only students with autism were eligible.
  • And they also expanded the statewide EdChoice voucher program, roughly doubling the number of vouchers available in 2011-12 and then again for the 2012-13 school year.


  • For each of the past four years, the number of students receiving EdChoice vouchers increased by about 2,000 students a year.
  • For each of the past four years, the number of Cleveland students receiving vouchers fell.
  • In 2011-12, about 15,000 students received EdChoice vouchers. That's less than the 30,000 vouchers available. And for the 2012-13 school year, about 17,000 students applied for EdChoice vouchers. That's a lot less than the 60,000 vouchers available.

EdChoice Voucher Program

Source: Ohio Department of Education, School Choice Ohio | Download Data

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