(Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice) – Gov. John Kasich [yesterday] signed Ohio’s 2011-2012 budget that dramatically expands the state’s EdChoice Scholarship Program, establishes a new scholarship program for children with disabilities, and makes needed improvements to the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program. This expansion triples the number of Ohio students eligible for vouchers.
“This is the year of growth for school choice, and Ohio has just joined the bumper crop of states that have decided to make educational choice a centerpiece of education reform,” said Robert C. Enlow, President and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the nation’s leading advocate for school choice. “The commitment of Gov. Kasich and the support of Rep. Matt Huffman and Senators Kevin Bacon and Peggy Lehner is inspiring. Their efforts will ensure that tens of thousands more children will have an opportunity to attend effective schools that motivate and challenge them to succeed.”
The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has long supported school choice efforts in Ohio. For almost a decade, the Foundation has undertaken research on the effectiveness of Ohio’s school choice programs. The Foundation also has supported the local efforts — spearheaded by School Choice Ohio — to implement the EdChoice Scholarship Program and educate Ohioans on the benefits of school choice.
“Ohio families emerged victorious today,” said Chad Aldis, Executive Director of School Choice Ohio. “The strengthening and expansion of existing voucher programs and the creation of a scholarship for students with disabilities are tremendous steps forward for Ohio families. This success would not have been possible without the support of trusted partners like the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.”
Ohio’s EdChoice Scholarship Program, enacted in 2005, allows students attending chronically failing public schools to receive vouchers to attend private schools. The budget signed today by Gov. Kasich increases the EdChoice Scholarship Program’s reach by:
- Expanding the eligible pool of students — Amends the definition of a failing public school to consider both the school’s state rating and the numerical performance index score the school receives.
- Quadrupling the cap — The EdChoice Scholarship Program currently is limited to 14,000 children. The budget increases its cap to 60,000 students, quadrupling the number of available vouchers.
- Allowing a summer application window — This year, newly-eligible families will be able to apply for the upcoming school year in the summer, instead of waiting a full year for the spring application period.
The budget also creates a new program for students with disabilities, building on the successful Ohio Autism Scholarship Program. Any Ohio student with special needs who has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) can receive a voucher worth approximately 90 percent of his or her current public school funding. Actual scholarship amounts will be based on each student’s disability and associated educational needs.
Approximately 260,000 students with special needs would be scholarship eligible, according to School Choice Ohio. Notably, accessibility to that new program is capped at five percent of Ohio’s students with special needs, which would provide just more than 13,000 scholarships statewide.
Finally, the budget makes needed improvements to the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program and addresses a historic inequality in the voucher amount available to participating children compared with those using the statewide EdChoice Scholarship Program. Currently, the maximum amount of a voucher in Cleveland is $3,450, whereas the maximum amount of an EdChoice voucher is $4,250 for grades K-8 and $5,000 for grades 9-12. Going forward, the voucher in Cleveland will be worth the same amount as the EdChoice voucher.
With two expanded school choice programs and one new program, Ohio joins a true education reform revolution. This year, 11 states have passed 17 school choice laws, of which seven establish new programs and 10 expand or improve existing programs.
“Ohio’s bold reforms will ensure that school choice grows in the state until every family has the freedom to choose how to educate their child, and until every child receives an effective education that prepares him or her for success in life,” said Enlow.