Recent changes mean school choice for more Ohio families


By Maggie Thurber | for Ohio Watchdog

ELIGIBLE? Recent changes in Ohio law mean more families are eligible for school choice.

Because of recent changes in Ohio law, more families are eligible for school choice through the EdChoice Scholarship Program.

Under the program, students who would normally be enrolled in “low performing” public schools can apply to attend a private school instead.

In prior school years, children had to actually attend a low-performing school to be eligible, but two changes to the law have expanded eligibility under the program.

In addition to children entering kindergarten, families moving into a zip code served by a low-performing school are now eligible to apply. Supporters of the program say this change could encourage families to move to urban areas of Ohio that historically have the most number of low-performing schools.

The second change, which was included in the state budget bill, was an income-based expansion for low-income children entering kindergarten and first grade in the 2014-15 school year. The income-based expansion plans to add one grade each year and income verification is required for applicants.

Up to 60,000 vouchers are available and the state is currently accepting applications for the 2014-15 school year.

A low-performing school is one that:

  1. Received a Local Report Card rating of Academic Emergency or Academic Watch for 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 and received an overall grade of “D” or “F” on the Performance Index and Value-Added progress dimension on their 2012-2013 building report card; or
  2. Ranked in the lowest 10 percent of public school buildings by Performance Index score.

The Ohio Department of Education recently published a list of 220 public schools that met this criteria.

The EdChoice vouchers are $4,250 for kindergarten through eighth grade and $5,000 for high school or the private school’s actual tuition, whichever is lower.

Parents must first apply and be accepted to a participating private school, which can then assist the family in applying for the EdChoice program. The current enrollment application process ends April 18, but a second application process will take place in July.

Families who live in the Cleveland Municipal School District aren’t eligible to apply for an EdChoice scholarship because they can participate in the Cleveland Scholarship Program.

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