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Ohio Expands School Choice Initiative


The state of Ohio is the first in the nation to offer four separate school voucher programs. The expansion of the offerings takes effect with the passage of a new two-year state budget.

In addition to the new programs that will be available, two of Ohio’s existing school choice offerings are significantly expanded now that Gov. John Kasich has signed the budget into law.

Included in the two-year state budget is a provision that more than quadruples the size of the EdChoice Scholarship Program over the next two years, ultimately resulting in up to 60,000 students having access to private school choice by the 2012-2013 school year.

The budget also creates the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship, which will give approximately 13,000 special needs children scholarships that can be used to pay for private school tuition, to defer the costs of attending an out-of-district public school, or for other services. The program is named after a former state legislator who was a staunch advocate for special-needs families.

“Legislators in Ohio have once again stood up for families that lack access to high-quality educational options, and we thank them for putting kids first,” said Betsy DeVos, Chairman of The American Federation for Children, a school-choice advocacy group. “They, along with Governor Kasich, have placed Ohio on an important path towards ensuring that all parents are able to give their children a shot to live out the American Dream.”

In addition to the creation of a new program and the EdChoice Program’s expansion, one of the state’s other voucher programs, the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, will see increases in scholarship amounts. The increases, between $800 and $1,550 per student, will bring scholarships more in line with the amounts offered by the EdChoice Program, and high school students will also now be eligible to apply for the Cleveland Scholarship Program.

The EdChoice Program, which uses a failing schools model to determine which students are eligible, will also likely see a spike in the number of students who qualify, thanks to a change in the criteria used to rate school performance. Though the original period to apply for EdChoice scholarships ended in April, an additional application window began on July 1 to allow newly-eligible families to apply for the 2011-12 school year.

Ohio’s budget comes less than a week after the Wisconsin budget also included a significant expansion of school choice. Along with Indiana, which created the nation’s most expansive voucher program earlier this year, almost a dozen states have in 2011 enacted legislation that will create, expand, or restore school choice programs.

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