New online tool predicts Ohio voucher eligibility

By Maggie Thurber | for Ohio Watchdog

VOUCHER TOOL: A new on-line tool from School Choice Ohio gives parents a quick, real-time estimate of their child’s eligibility for the state voucher programs.

If you have children in school and want a quick way to know if they’re eligible for an Ohio voucher, your wait is over.

Thanks to School Choice Ohio, a few simple clicks will give you a reliable indication which, if any, of the state’s voucher programs your child qualifies for.

“Our mission is to education families on their school options and this tool is one more way that families can learn what their options are,” said Matt Cox, executive director of School Choice Ohio.

The fill-in-the blanks form asks a few simple questions like where you live, how many kids you have and your annual income. Then you indicate where they currently go to school, where they would go in the upcoming school year and if they have any special needs like autism.

The website then calculates eligibility.

There is a catch — the calculations are based upon the “most up-to-date information available” and are not a guarantee of eligibility, a disclaimer warns.

“We only use the disclaimer because the eligible schools list changes so often,” Cox explained. “We’re pretty certain that if the site says you’re eligible then you’re eligible.”

While many websites market such tools to promote their goals, Cox doesn’t think the eligibility calculation will result in huge numbers of parents switching to a school of choice.

“Parents who aren’t already looking for options probably won’t use it,” he said. “Parents who use the tool will probably be already on our site or doing an Internet search for education options.”

If a parent learns their child isn’t eligible for one of the voucher programs, there are other options, Cox said, including public charter schools, online schools or home schooling.

But if the tools says their child is eligible, parents still need to go through the formal process with the state by either calling or going online to fill out an application.

Cox said school choice organizations in other states use similar tools.

“It’s a great tool for parents,” he said, especially because the state doesn’t have anything that can provide a real-time estimate of eligibility except through the formal application process.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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