Know the FACTS: EdChoice Scholarship Program

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What is EdChoice? 

Ohio has a very aggressive school voucher program (known as the EdChoice Scholarship Program) that provides public tax dollars to pay for tuition for students attending private schools.

Due to the number of changes to Ohio law over the past decade, more and more vouchers are being granted every year.  The following is information that parents and community members need to know about vouchers and Hamilton City Schools.

  • Ohio's EdChoice voucher program started out as a way to provide an alternative education choice for students whose local public school was considered by the state to be an “underperforming school”.  However, the program expanded to include students from public schools that are performing at a high level. Hamilton City Schools, as a district, received an overall grade of a “C” on the most recent state of Ohio report card. 

FACT: Ohio went from fewer than 300 school buildings being deemed eligible for vouchers in the 2018-19 school year to more than 1,200 school buildings for the 2020-21 school year.  That’s a 300% increase in two years.

The EdChoice voucher program has two parts:

  • Students whose family income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level can obtain a state-paid voucher to go to a private school regardless of how their public school performs.

  • Students whose public school is considered to be an “underperforming” by the state, can take a voucher that is paid for by the local public school district.

FACT: The voucher amount for elementary school vouchers is $4,650 per student and high school vouchers are $6,000 per student.

FACT: Once a student receives a voucher, they can continue to receive the voucher throughout their education (K - 12th grade), even if the school district’s report card improves. This is a cost of more than $65,000 over the student’s academic career. 

Local property taxes fund district paid vouchers

  • The state may provide some portion of the cost of the voucher, but districts must make up the difference from the proceeds from property taxes.

  • In some cases, the district receives no state aid to pay for vouchers, so property taxes cover the full cost.

FACT: Hamilton City Schools receive over 75% of their total district funding through state allocations.

Does Hamilton City School District have schools designated as “underperforming?” 

Yes. For the current 2019-20 school year, Hamilton High School is designated as underperforming.  Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, HCSD has six (6) schools with this designation:  Fairwood Elementary, Highland Elementary, Ridgeway Elementary, Bridgeport Elementary, Hamilton High School, and the Miami School.

What criteria are used to determine this designation? 

The Ohio Department of Education is using data from the Ohio School Report Cards from 2013-2014, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019 to designate schools meeting one or more of the following conditions (impacted HCSD schools are listed in bold):

  • Performance:  If any of the following is true for two report cards from 2014, 2018, 2019:  If the school received a Performance Index grade of D or F and a Value-Added (overall) grade of D or F on the 2014 report card, the school received an overall grade of D or F or a Value-Added (overall) grade of F on the 2018 or 2019 report card.  Beginning in 2020-21 Fairwood Elementary, Highland Elementary, Ridgeway Elementary, Bridgeport Elementary qualify due to this metric.

  • Graduation:  The school serves grades 9-12 and received a Graduation Rate grade of D or F on any two report cards from 2014, 2018 and 2019. Hamilton High School qualifies for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school year due to this metric and the Miami School will qualify in 2020-21 as well.

  • Lowest 10%:  The school(s) ranked in the lowest 10 percent of public school buildings on the Performance Index on the Ohio School Report Cards for any two Performance Index rankings from 2014, 2018 and 2019; the school did not receive an overall grade of A or B on the 2019 report card. 

  • K-3 Literacy::  The school received a grade of D or F for Improving At-Risk K-3 Readers on any two report cards from 2014, 2018 and 2019. 

  • District Performance:  No districts are eligible under this criterion.

  • Academic Distress: The school’s public district has an academic distress commission.

FACT: No private school is held to any academic accountability standard by the state of Ohio and students do not have to take the same required state tests as their public school counterparts, even though they are using public funds.  

FACT: According to data collected by the Ohio Department of Education and also a study performed by the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, voucher students in private schools performed at lower levels than their public counterparts in reading and math.

Who is eligible to apply for a scholarship?

  • Students currently attending a private/parochial school in grades 9-11, even though they have never attended a public high school.

  • Students attending a public school in their resident district who will be assigned to one of the designated public schools for the upcoming school year.

  • Students eligible to enter kindergarten for fall 2020 (and who will be five (5) years of age by January 1, 2021, who would be assigned to one of the designated public schools).

  • Students enrolling in an Ohio school for the first time who would be assigned to one of the designated public schools for the upcoming school year. 

FACT: A growing number of students who have never been enrolled in a public school (the students were already attending private school) are qualifying for vouchers, paid for by the public school district.

Will private schools be required to accept all students who are eligible for EdChoice Scholarship payment?

  • No. Private schools will continue to have a selective entrance process for enrollment of students.  It is at the discretion of the private/parochial school as to which students are accepted to attend. They do not have to accept any student if they do not want to enroll that student.

FACT: Private schools have selective entrance criteria and do NOT have any requirements from the state of Ohio on who they select to grant admission to their school.

What will be the projected financial impact on HCSD?

  • The state will deduct from our public school district funding to cover the cost of scholarships awarded per student from our district.

  • The projected impact will be financially devastating for the HCSD and many other public school districts. It is difficult to predict the number of students who will leave the HCSD. We are projecting the financial impact to be as follows:

Fiscal year 2019-2020:   $840,000

Fiscal year 2020-2021: $1,114,500

Fiscal year 2021-2022: $1,402,950

Fiscal year 2022-2023: $1,706,700

Fiscal year 2023-2024: $2,024,400

Total estimated loss $7,088,550

What’s next? 

The Ohio Legislature is currently considering the effects and possible amendment of this program. If you have concerns, contact your legislators IMMEDIATELY. We have included a list of contact information to assist you. Thank you in advance for your help!

 

Legislator Key Contacts: 

Senators:

Matt Huffman

Phone: (614) 466-7584

Email: huffman@ohiosenate.gov

Twitter: @matthuffman1
 

Bill Coley

Phone: (614) 466-8072

Email: coley@ohiosenate.gov

Twitter: @BillColeyOH
 

Steve Wilson

Phone: (614) 466-9737

Email: wilson@ohiosenate.gov

Twitter: @SteveWilsonOH

 

Representatives:

Sara Carruthers

Phone: (614) 466-6721

Email: rep51@ohiohouse.gov

Twitter: @FriendsofSara or @Sara4Ohio
 

Candice Keller

Phone: (614) 466-5094

Email: rep53@ohiohouse.gov
 

George Lang

Phone: (614) 466-8550

Email: rep52@ohiohouse.gov

Twitter: @LangForOhio
 

Bill Seitz

Phone: (614) 466-8258

Email: rep30@ohiohouse.gov

Twitter: @CincySeitz
 

Cindy Abrams

Phone: (614) 466-9091

Email: rep29@ohiohouse.gov

Twitter: @ElectAbrams 
 

Governor:

Mike Dewine

Phone: (614) 644-4357

Email: https://governor.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/governor/contact

 

Additional legislators can be located at the link below:

https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/.

Click here for a list of EdChoice designated buildings throughout Ohio for the 2020-21 school year.





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