COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A proposal to modernize who can qualify for Ohio’s largest school coupon program cleared the Republican-led House on Thursday despite Democrats disagreement and led to GOP Gov. Mike DeWine for consideration.
The program known as EdChoice funds private schooling for students from poorly run public schools. This qualification list was determined for more than double to over 1,200 schools under current criteria, including some in affluent areas, leading to debates on funding and justice.
Instead, the list would shrink to about 470 schools in just 87 of Ohio’s 600-plus districts under the revised criteria, according to an analysis by the Ohio Legislative Service Commission. Students would be eligible for EdChoice funding if their public schools rank in the bottom fifth on a performance index and meet specific measurements that reflect poverty levels in their districts.
This means that dozens of schools would be recently added to the list and dozens of more would be removed.
The legislation will also extend eligibility for income-based EdChoice scholarships, allowing initial eligibility for families up to 250% of federal poverty guidelines.
“It’s not perfect. I will admit it, ”said the rep. Don Jones, R-Freeport, as he called on House colleagues to support the changes and acknowledged that more work is still needed to adjust how Ohio finances schools and assesses their performance. “But ladies and gentlemen, we have to decide today whether we want 1,227 … school buildings on this list for next year or whether we want 469.”
A statement from Senate President Larry Obhof, a Republican in Medina, said lawmakers listened to input from families and educators to produce “the right solution that both supports our public schools and protects educational choices for Ohio’s families.”
Rep. Phil Robinson, D-Solon, spoke out against the measure, calling it “a non-funded mandate because it does not offset the increases that will happen if more people request coupons.”
The analysis from the Legislative Service Commission noted that the number of scholarships would be limited by how much funding the state allocates to the program.
Late. Teresa Fedor of Toledo, the top Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, protested in a statement that the measure “does not reflect what public school advocates expressed” in this week’s testimony on the subject. She also noted that lawmakers removed languages that would have dissolved the state-appointed academic emergency commissions that the state has used to intervene in several repeatedly poorly performing districts.