As conference committee hearings continue on a bill to change the state’s EdChoice private school voucher program, parents and students who depend on the program came out in support of the Senate version.
One by one, EdChoice students and parents supported a plan passed by the Senate to expand income-based vouchers to 300% of the federal poverty level while keeping 420 school buildings on EdChoice, which is based on school performance.
“If you take EdChoice away, I will have to pay full tuition or be subjected to go to a failing school," said Saddia Kendrick, an eighth grader at Corryville Catholic in Cincinnati.
Kendrick says she wants to attend a private Catholic high school, but said if EdChoice is eliminated her family wouldn’t get a $6,000 voucher and would have to pay tuition. Austin Townsend, another student at Corryville Catholic, said his family would struggle with affording the school.
“I do not want to go to a high school that is failing," said Townsend.
Ohio lawmakers must agree on a compromise before the EdChoice application process opens April 1.
“We too are in a failing school district in an impoverished neighborhood, and we want better for our children," said Rudie Wright, whose children go to St. Lawrence School in Cincinnati.
Wright said she wouldn’t qualify for income-based vouchers, so if lawmakers replace the EdChoice program, she’d have to take on a second job or “do something drastic” to pay for her kids’ tuition.
The parents and students were brought together by School Choice Ohio, a group that advocates for students in all five of Ohio's private school voucher programs. The group has said it supports the Senate plan.
That’s not the only plan being discussed, though. Another proposal that was passed by the House would replace the EdChoice program going forward with vouchers that are based only on income, up to 250% of the federal poverty level. Public school groups have testified for the House’s plan because those voucher would be paid by the state, not by school districts.
The window to apply for EdChoice was supposed to open on February 1. But because the number of school buildings where students would qualify for EdChoice would more than double from last school year, lawmakers had wanted to change the program and delayed the application opening till April 1.
If no resolution is agreed upon, 1,227 buildings will be newly considered failing, meaning thousands more students would qualify for EdChoice vouchers, paid for by those public school districts.
This school year, 517 buildings had students that qualified for EdChoice.