OHIO — Legislators rolled back EdChoice Scholarship eligibility under the emergency bill passed Wednesday. The changes will put some families looking to get vouchers at ease, while others will have to find a different way to send their children to a charter or private school.
- Eligible school list cut back
- Families can apply beginning April 1
- Legislators will revisit the EdChoice Scholarship Program to make permanent changes for the future
The debate over the ballooning EdChoice eligible school list ended with a freeze and a reduction of that list from 1227 school buildings back down to 517. That's around the number of schools the list was initially set for, for the 2019-20 school year.
While Senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima) voted for the emergency measure, he was not pleased with the move at all.
"I'm very disappointed in the way this happened. “We were, I think, a hairs-breath away from resolving this," Huffman said.
Legislators will have to revisit the issue to make some permanent decisions about the program.
But for now, here's what the emergency move means:
If the school in your area appears on the amended list, you can apply for a voucher beginning April 1. Anyone renewing a voucher and anyone enrolled in or set to enroll in an eligible school can apply. That includes those families with kindergarten, rising high school students and siblings of current voucher recipients.
Huffman admits the previous delay and trying to make decisions at the last minute caused confusion and wishes things could have been different.
"I think we should have just done it in January when we had an opportunity. I don't think we should have delayed it for 60 days," he said.
Regardless, House Speaker Larry Householder said they will continue working on it and will try to get a resolution to it all. When asked what he would say to parents who made adjustments in hopes of getting a scholarship, Householder said, "The portal never opened and so they've never been granted that voucher."
Huffman is hopeful they'll be able to make the switch to an income-based system in the future but says he'll continue to fight for equitable school choice.
For now, many families hoping to apply this year will have to wait.
The Ohio Federation of Teachers released a statement saying the emergency move is a temporary reprieve, but still does not fix the problem of an increasing number of students who will be able to receive vouchers.
School Choice Ohio expressed their disappointment with the reduction of the list, but applaud the fact that families with siblings will be able to apply for vouchers along with more low-income families.