Ohio Considers Expanding State’s Voucher Program

Published July 14, 2017

Ohio currently offers five voucher programs, including assistance for special-needs students, children assigned to “low-performing” public schools, students from low-income households, and children in Cleveland. Senate Bill 85, introduced in March of this year, would combine the programs not involving disabled students into an Ohio Opportunity Scholarship program. It would also eliminate the cap on the number of scholarships offered, base voucher eligibility on a family’s income, and loosen income requirements to include more families.

If it passes, SB 85 will take effect in the 2018-19 school year.

Bill ‘Provides Freedom’

Jackie Zufall, president of Holy Cross Academy Catholic Schools in Stark County, Ohio, says there are many ways to maximize a person’s potential but none as profound as a quality education, which is why the new bill is so important.

“SB 85 broadens the choices Ohio’s parents have when making important decisions about their child’s education,” Zufall said. “Parents use their freedom and judgment to choose everything from food to day care facilities to pediatricians. As a child’s first teacher, parents should be able to make decisions about their child’s education, too. SB 85 provides freedom for more parents to choose an educational setting and program which matches their child’s specific needs. This is essential for designing an appropriate educational path, thus maximizing the unique potential their child possesses.”

Catalyst for Success

Zufall says the chance to attend a different school can change a young person’s life.

“I’ve seen middle school students who were negatively influenced by peer pressure make a complete turnaround in a new setting,” Zufall said. “I’ve seen students who struggled with learning develop self-confidence for the first time because of the structured approach found in private schools. Some students are fine in an assigned school setting; others need more attention or a different approach.

“The choice to attend a different school, find another instructional approach, or experience an alternative setting can be the catalyst for a child fulfilling his or her potential for a promising future,” Zufall said.

Money Follows the Student

Greg R. Lawson, a research fellow at The Buckeye Institute, says the bill would introduce further market forces into the state’s education system.

“Ultimately, the policies contained in SB 85 move us somewhat, even if it is a baby step, closer to a model where the money follows the student,” Lawson said.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.