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Kasich Education Plan Would Make Half of Ohio Children Eligible for Private-School Vouchers

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Monday, February 4, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Philip Howard / Flickr

Nearly half of Ohio students would be eligible for vouchers to attend private schools under a dramatic expansion of the state's existing voucher programs proposed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich in this year's budget. Vouchers are publicly funded tuition subsidies for students attending private-school.

The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice writes:

Gov. Kasich’s proposal will put Ohio on par with Indiana and Louisiana, which make around half of their total student populations eligible for vouchers.

Currently, Ohio offers vouchers to students assigned to low-performing schools and the Cleveland schools. Ohio also offers vouchers to students with special needsand students with autism.

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The state spends more than $100 million a year on vouchers for more than 20,000 students.

Kasich wants students throughout Ohio to be able to apply for vouchers--regardless of their district's performance or students' special needs.

Here's who else would be eligible for vouchers under Kasich's proposal:

  1. Students in low-income families.
    • Low-income means less than $46,100 for a family of four. About 45 percent of Ohio elementary, middle and high school students--1.8 million--meet that criteria, Ohio Public Radio reports.
    • These vouchers would initially be available to kindergarteners. The kindergarteners would retain their vouchers as they moved to first grade. Kasich administration officials said it was unclear whether first graders who did not receive vouchers as kindergarteners would be eligible for vouchers. State budgets cover two years, but the administration has said the intent would be for students to continue to receive vouchers in third grade, fourth grade and so on.
    • Kasich's budget would set aside $25.5 million over two years for these vouchers. That's enough to fund vouchers for about 6,000 students over two years.
    • The state would not deduct funding from public school districts for each student who receives one of these vouchers.
  2. Students in grades K-3 who struggle in reading.
    • Kasich has not emphasized this part of his voucher proposal publicly, but the Dayton Daily News reports that it would apply to students who fail state reading tests or fail to progress in reading. It's not clear if those vouchers would be available only to individual students who struggle in reading or to all students in schools or districts that receive low marks in the new early literacy portion of the new school report cards.
    • The state would deduct funding from public school districts for each student who receives one of these vouchers.

These proposed changes are a big deal, says Bill Phillis, Executive Directory of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding.

They would expand vouchers to a subset of Ohio students. But, if enacted, parents are likely to press legislators to extend vouchers even further, Phillis says.

In fact, that's exactly what the Friedman Family is already pushing for. Friedman Foundation President Robert Enlow said via email:

“Ohio’s plan to expand vouchers is a welcome move that will give more families access to the schools that work best for them...But just as public and charter schools are available to children from all income brackets, vouchers should be as well.

Of course, that's if Kasich's plan actually makes it through the legislature intact. A 2011 bill that would have expanded vouchers statewide failed in the face of school-district opposition.

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