Ohio Lawmakers Vote to Delay Start of EdChoice Enrollment

by Todd DeFeo


Ohio Democrats seized on an opportunity to blame Republicans for what they call an inability to fix the EdChoice school voucher program and for delaying the start of enrollment for two months.

Last week, state lawmakers signed off on a plan to move the start of the enrollment period for the Educational Choice Scholarship Program – colloquially known as EdChoice – from Feb. 1 to April 1. The program “provides students from designated public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools.”

Before voting for the 60-day delay, lawmakers considered a proposed amendment to “freeze the ‘failing schools’ list to last year’s list,” according to the Citizens for Community Values. The proposal would also increase the income voucher from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 300 percent, the group said.

“Kicking the can down the road is not good governing,” state Rep. Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, said in a Facebook post. “After months of warnings from our local schools about the fiscal cliff created by the massive EdChoice voucher expansion, I am extremely disappointed that my colleagues across the aisle (who hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate) could not find agreement on a timely fix.”

Gov. Mike DeWine signed the legislation containing the change, Senate Bill 120, on Friday.

Last June, the Ohio Department of Education released guidelines for the parents of high school students who attend failing high schools about how they could receive an EdChoice voucher, according to the Citizens for Community Values. In November, the released EdChoice list included more than 1,200 public schools that met the criteria.

“Families across Ohio were counting on the General Assembly to show courage, but instead, they have created chaos and confusion,” Citizens for Community Values President Aaron Baer said in a statement.

“Our position has remained constant: whatever the General Assembly does to the ‘Failing Schools List,’ they must protect families who were promised a voucher in November,” Baer added. “The legislation passed has made those least able to pay the price suffer the greatest consequences. These families’ lives will be turned upside down by this legislation.”

State lawmakers appropriated $10 million from the fiscal 2021 General Revenue Fund for EdChoice scholarships for students eligible for the first time during the 2020-21 school year.

“The future of thousands of Ohio’s students remains up in the air today with the delay of the EdChoice application period,” Greg R. Lawson, a research fellow at The Buckeye Institute, said in a statement. “While some very reasonable alternatives are being explored to improve school choice in Ohio, it is unfortunate that families who need predictability in order to make the best decisions for their children don’t have that at present.

“Hopefully, policymakers can quickly find a solution that protects Ohio’s students and school choice before chaos and uncertainty harms innocent families who just want to do the right thing for their children,” Lawson added.

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Todd DeFeo is a regular contributor to The Center Square






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