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Reporting on the state of education in your community and across the country.

Northeast Ohio School Districts Join Coalition To Sue State Over EdChoice

The coalition Vouchers Hurt Ohio has hired a legal team to build a case against EdChoice. [Anna Nahabed / Shutterstock]
Classroom with desks and colorful school items

A growing number of Northeast Ohio school districts have joined a coalition planning to take the state to court over the controversial private school voucher program, EdChoice.  

The school boards of Cleveland Heights-University Heights, Canton, Crestview Local and Richmond Heights all recently passed resolutions to join the coalition, newly named “Vouchers Hurt Ohio.”

Under the complex state formula, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District lost more than $5 million to EdChoice during the 2019-2020 academic year and narrowly failed to get a levy passed in late April.  The CH-UH district’s situation is the perfect example of how Ohio’s private school voucher program is harming public school districts, said Dennis Willard, the spokesperson for Vouchers Hurt Ohio.

“Ninety-three to 94 percent of the students who are taking vouchers and money away from teachers and students in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school district never stepped foot in that in any of those schools,” Willard said. “So, this is really a program designed to reimburse families for private education. It has nothing to do with helping families of low-income. It's really just a program that really hurts Ohio and hurts students.”

Willard said the coalition is contacting members of the Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy in School Funding, which has 500 districts as its members and successfully sued the state over school funding in the landmark 1990s DeRolph v. State of Ohio case.

Vouchers Hurt Ohio has also hired a “very strong” legal team, according to Willard.

“They believe they have a number of significant points that they can that will demonstrate that the voucher program in Ohio is unconstitutional,” he said.

Willard says some school districts are losing big chunks from their budget to the voucher program EdChoice while also facing “draconian” budget cuts from Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration due to COVID-19

Eric Resnick, a Canton Schools board member, said the district lost $2.75 million to EdChoice last year.

“Let me tell you what that means. We just passed a levy for 7.9 mill. And 7.9 mills in the Canton City School District generates $5.1 million,” said Resnick. “So, with EdChoice taking $2.75 million, that’s over half our levy.”

Since 2006, Ohio has provided publicly funded vouchers for students to attend private or religious schools. The EdChoice vouchers allow students at a public school deemed underperforming or failing by the state to go to a private school, covering about $4,500 in tuition for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and $6,000 for high school students. When a student switches schools using vouchers, their local public school loses the voucher amount from its state funding. If that per-student state funding allocation doesn’t equal the voucher amount, local tax dollars must make up the difference.

Resnick also said there are costs associated with the EdChoice voucher program that go beyond the value of the vouchers.

“EdChoice affects us not just in the loss of students and in the loss of resources, but also the public doesn't always realize that public school districts have to transport those kids as well,” he said. “So, you know, we have to run our transportation systems, our buses, to transport kids who aren't going to our schools.”

“We’re talking about real money out of districts,” Resnick said. “It’s a major problem.”