Applications for Ohio’s Voucher Program Jump

Published September 1, 2009

Ohio’s voucher program for children trapped in failing schools, EdChoice, is proving increasingly popular among parents and students in the state. The program saw a 20 percent increase in applications for the 2009-10 school year.

Created with the passage of House Bill 66 in 2005, EdChoice attracted relatively few applicants in its first years—less than 3,000, according to Beth Lear, an education policy analyst with the Buckeye Institute in Ohio.

This was “due in large part to poor marketing, [and because] parents were unaware of their new option,” Lear said. But “by the second year, 2007-08, parents were beginning to get the news, and 7,144 students received EdChoice scholarships.”

Ohioans Like Choice

Public opinion surveys show Ohioans like all kinds of education choice, and for many reasons. According to a study released earlier this year by the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, more than 80 percent of parents in Ohio would prefer something other than their government-run neighborhood school for their children’s education.

“According to a survey of Columbus parents, the top reasons for them switching their kids to charter schools were safety, discipline, and dress codes,” Lear said. “Tied with that was the improved individual attention their student receives. Safety, teacher attention, and communication issues have been key factors for all parents who use school choice options. Academics are important to them, but they are often not the first reason parents walk away from the public district schools.”

Imperfect Solution

EdChoice is growing in popularity despite several imperfections in the program, Lear says.

“Too few children are eligible for EdChoice. A universal voucher program would be fairer,” Lear said. “Also, it’s too easy for the public district schools to manipulate the rules. The Cincinnati Public School system actually consolidated two failing schools into one, renamed it, and then all of the children from the two schools who would have been eligible for EdChoice last year did not get it because a new school gets a new ID and a fresh start. The old records of the failing schools [two out of three years in “academic emergency” under state standards] didn’t apply to this ‘new’ school.”

Sarah McIntosh ([email protected]) teaches constitutional law and American politics at Wichita State University in Kansas.

For more information …

“Ohio’s Opinion on K-12 Education and School Choice,” by Paul DiPerna, Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, May 2009: