The Facts About EdChoice

The Facts about EdChoice
Posted on 12/31/2019
This is the image for the news article titled The Facts about EdChoiceThis article by Lakota Superintendent Matthew Miller appeared in the Dec. 15 issue of Today's Pulse.

The State of Ohio’s EdChoice scholarship program has been in the news a lot lately. This voucher system was originally created to provide financial assistance to families with students attending “failing” public schools so that they might attend a private or parochial school. This system has morphed into something detrimental, without much publicity, and with a bigger cost to our local taxpayers.

There are two types of EdChoice scholarships: the Expansion Program is an income-based scholarship regardless of how the local public school performs and is paid for directly by the State of Ohio; the EdChoice Scholarship is based on state report card results and funded by the local public school district, which means local property taxes pay for these scholarships. The scholarship amounts, which your local tax dollars are funding, are $4,650 for grades K-8 and $6,000 for grades 9-12.

For the upcoming school year, 70-percent of Ohio’s public school districts will have at least one school on the EdChoice list. That’s a 300-percent increase over the past two years and amounts to 1,233 schools on next year’s list.

In determining the EdChoice list, the State evaluates a school based on data collected from state testing during the 2013-14, 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years. The 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years do not count.

Furthermore, a school could receive an overall passing grade from the State, but still be considered an EdChoice school. This is all based on the debacle of a grading system approved by our state legislators.

Equally troubling is that once a student receives an EdChoice scholarship, the public school district must continue to provide funding even if the school improves and drops off the list.

Private and parochial schools are not held to the same accountability as public schools - even though they are using public funds. In fact, the Ohio Department of Education has data that shows students using vouchers to attend private schools have performed worse than their public counterparts in reading and math. This is also echoed by a study conducted by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation.

I can appreciate giving parents the option of private or public education. But how many of our taxpayers realize that a portion of their local property tax dollars intended for their public school districts are actually being used to fund private education because of this state-mandated program?

Like many other high-performing districts in our area and across the state, some of Lakota’s schools will be among the 1,233 on next year’s list. However, it was just announced that Lakota Local Schools has won the Momentum Award by the Ohio Department of Education for the fourth time. This award recognizes districts and schools for exceeding expectations in student growth. Even more interesting, five of our schools have also received this of them for the third time. Interestingly, that school is on the EdChoice list as a “failing school”. The mere fact that a school can receive a performance award AND be considered “failing”underscores the ridiculousness of the EdChoice legislation.

The root cause of this fiasco is a severely flawed report card system that puts a higher priority on standardized test scores than ensuring that our kids are prepared for life after graduation.

I urge you to reach out to your local legislator and encourage them to make some real changes to the state report card and to the EdChoice scholarship program.