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School Voucher situation remains unresolved in Ohio

By La Prensa Staff

 

Latino parents and students may be left in a lurch as the debate over what to do with the school voucher system remains unresolved and state lawmakers went home for a recess that will last until after the March primary. That would leave just a week to do something before an April 1, 2020 window that opens for families to file voucher applications for next academic year.

 

The EdChoice voucher application window was supposed to start Feb. 1, 2020 but legislators granted a delay hoping a conference committee from both houses of the Ohio General Assembly could craft a compromise. The lack of a deal continues to cause uncertainty for parents and school officials, all looking at their budgets to figure out what their expenses look like for next year.

 

Meantime, the raging debate about other education issues like state report cards and school funding will get some attention in the coming weeks at local town halls scheduled in Bowling Green and Toledo.

 

State Representative Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) will host a town hall forum Monday, March 2,

6-8 p.m., at the Conn Weisenberger American Legion Post #587, 2020 W. Alexis Rd., featuring administrators from Toledo Public Schools and Washington Local Schools, among others.

 

A bipartisan town hall was held Monday, Feb. 24, at Bowling Green High School, featuring State Representative Haraz Ghanbari (R-Perrysburg) and State Representative John Patterson (D-Jefferson), the architect of a school funding plan under consideration now as House Bill 305.

 

State Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) served on a conference committee trying to work out a compromise on school vouchers, but many state lawmakers are fixating on a solution to state report cards—which is causing much of the current rancor over an expansion of school vouchers.

 

“If we are going to make the decision to have vouchers, it’s going to have to be income-based. That’s my conclusion,” Sen. Fedor told the Columbus Dispatch. “If we wait, everyone is going to solidify even more into their positions. There has to be some type of movement forward.”

 

The lack of action comes after state legislators heard more than 25 hours of public comments last week from parents, teachers, and superintendents. Locally, St. John’s Jesuit High School even chartered a bus to send school voucher proponents to Columbus to testify in favor of EdChoice.

 

Many see the school voucher problem as an unintended consequence of the state report card debacle—and prefer to fix one, then the other. A bill passed in the Ohio Senate would freeze school vouchers for three years, buying time to revamp state education report cards and possibly find a better way to accomplish school funding. However, the Ohio House Speaker wanted other fundamental changes to that school voucher legislation and no compromise could be reached.

 

The House speaker wants to eliminate EdChoice scholarships for future students and create one, income-based system that prioritizes the state’s poorest families and provide state funding rather than deduct from state aid given to each school district. That goes along with the original intent of school vouchers—to give low-income students an opportunity to leave poor-performing schools for a shot at a better education elsewhere.

 

Opponents in the Ohio Senate contend a $121 million state appropriation for those income-based vouchers would be long gone before every student currently on EdChoice received a scholarship.

 

Senate Republicans want a three-year freeze that keeps performance-based school vouchers, but would shrink the list of voucher-eligible schools. A change in how those schools were determined based on state report cards caused an explosion in the number of affected schools, causing concern that high-performing suburban and rural school districts would lose both student population and vital funding when they left for parochial or private schools.

 

Some school districts are considering placing a local levy on the ballot later this year, asking voters and taxpayers to replace those funds lost to school vouchers. The delay in implementation and lack of a permanent solution creates uncertainty in whether to pursue a local levy.

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 02/25/20 11:57:02 -0800.

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