State Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon), who serves as Ranking Member on the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee,issued a statement today concerning the immediate need to fix the state’s EdChoice voucher program:
“Expanding the EdChoice voucher program is the last thing we need to do. We have expressed concerns about this program in the past and how it takes resources away from our public schools. Taking even more public resources away from even more districts is not the answer,” Rep. Robinson said. “Our Statehouse offices are being flooded this week with concerns from superintendents and parents from around the state not wanting this expansion to happen and Ohioans insisting we act on this now, prior to the February 1 application process opening. The expansion of this program presents a real strain on local school systems that are already stressed and takes taxpayer money out of our public schools. Fixing our broken voucher system is a top priority for House Democrats as we move into the New Year, and we vow to work across the aisle to repair the state’s broken educational system as quickly as possible.”
When the state operating budget, House Bill 166, was passed, Rep. Robinson asked that Gov. DeWine veto the EdChoice expansion provisions among others that negatively impacted education and charter school oversight.
“I understand that there are families that would like to send their children to non-public schools for various reasons. I am happy to look into bipartisan solutions to their concerns, but taking more resources from public schools is not the way and only hurts the state as a whole,” added Rep. Robinson. “The intent of the EdChoice program was for lower-income and working class families to be able to afford education alternatives in struggling school districts. There are clearly problems with the expansion if school districts like Solon having a school that qualifies for EdChoice. Solon City School District is in the thriving community of Solon and is consistently a top rated district in Ohio and the nation, receiving an A grade on the state report card.”
The expansion has tripled the number of qualifying school districts, from 40 in 2018-19 to 139 this school year. Ohio went from less than 300 school buildings qualifying for vouchers in the previous school year to over 1,200 buildings statewide this year. That is a 300 percent increase in supposed “underperforming schools” in only a few years. The expansion has almost doubled the number of children eligible to receive vouchers for next school year, creating a significant financial impact on school districts.
Even prior to the expansion, Ohio House District 6 school districts are among the districts that have already lost the most money between this year and last year to the voucher deductions increases. Parma City School District vouchers cost the district an additional $2.1 million to its already tight budget. Bedford City School District vouchers costs increased over 232 percent from last year. The other nine of its 11 school districts have more than 10 percent of state education FY 2019 foundation aid deducted for state scholarship programs like EdChoice:
- Mayfield City School District: 30.3 percent
- Orange City School District: 28.9 percent
- Independence Local School District: 26.5 percent
- Chagrin Falls Ex. Village School District: 12.9 percent
- Solon City School District: 12.7 percent
- Brecksville-Broadview Hts. School District: 11.5 percent
- North Royalton City School District: 10.9 percent
- Cuyahoga Heights Local School District: 10.5 percent
- South Euclid-Lyndhurst City School District: 10.4 percent
Lawmakers will not return from the holiday break for committee meetings until the week of January 21 which presents a problem with the application period for the EdChoice voucher program beginning February 1.
Rep. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) and Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), who sit on the State Report Card Study Committee, voiced opposition to the State Report Card Study Committee’s Final Report that they said did not offer any concrete recommendations for improvements to the State School Report Card system. The system is inextricably connected to EdChoice since eligibility for EdChoice vouchers in private schools can be dependent upon a school’s report card grade.
“The State Report Card is another issue we need to develop a bipartisan solution. With so much confusion and so many clear problems in how we are tracking our students’ progress, and so much hinging on the school district’s grade, ranging from EdChoice vouchers and academic distress commissions to property values and local communities’ development efforts, we can’t ignore this,” said Rep. Robinson.