Home Education EXPLAINER: How Ohio Legislature plans to transform EdChoice program

EXPLAINER: How Ohio Legislature plans to transform EdChoice program

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Ohio Statehouse. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate remain divided on the details of a replacement plan for the state’s controversial EdChoice voucher program, which awards some public school students scholarships to attend private schools.

The bill, which originated in the Senate but was amended by the House, would eliminate the EdChoice program and replace it with the Buckeye Opportunity Scholarships plan, which would be awarded exclusively to low-income students.

Under the new program, students with a family income of up to 250% below the poverty line could receive $4,650 a year for K-8 students and $6,000 a year for high school students.

This is the first step on the road to meaningful education reform that works for all Ohio students, regardless of their ZIP code or circumstances,” said Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) in a news release. “The Buckeye Opportunity Scholarship plan will put low-income students at the front of the line.”

The Ohio Senate passed a separate bipartisan bill last week that voted to keep the EdChoice program but reduce the number of eligible schools. The House and Senate, however, could not reconcile their differing visions for EdChoice before Feb. 1 — the day the EdChoice application opened for families to apply. 

The Senate and House passed a stopgap measure that would push the beginning of the application’s availability to April 1.

“We’re putting in a 60-day extension,” Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) said in an interview with Gongwer News Service. “My biggest fear is the first 58 days will be in vain and the last two days will be midnight session and rushed decisions.”

The House and Senate will meet in a conference committee in the coming weeks to reconcile their respective bills.

The current EdChoice program allows any K-12 students who are enrolled in eligible public schools, regardless of family income, to receive an annual scholarship to attend a private school.

Public school eligibility is determined by state report cards. For example, if a school has a “D” or an “F” in any category, it is eligible for consideration. Representatives expect about 1,227 schools to be eligible for the 2020-2021 school year.

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