COLUMBUS: Interest from Ohio parents has been light as the state expands its offer for vouchers that allow children to move from low-performing public schools to private schools.
The state budget signed by Gov. John Kasich at the end of June more than doubled the number of taxpayer-funded vouchers available for the new school year under what’s formally known as the EdChoice Scholarship Program. The state will provide as many as 30,000 scholarships, an increase from the previous cap of 14,000 vouchers worth up to $5,000 each.
The Ohio Department of Education collected more than 15,000 applications earlier this year when the state thought a smaller number of vouchers would be available. The department reopened its online sign-up system July 1 and by Friday had received 1,300 new applications, said Patrick Galloway, a department spokesman. The deadline was Monday.
A spokeswoman for School Choice Ohio, an organization that advocates vouchers, said there is interest in the expanded program.
“We’ve received a lot of calls from parents who are excited about the program and happy to be able to choose a school that meets their needs,” Frazier told the Plain Dealer in Cleveland.
Students qualify for a voucher if their school is under academic watch or academic emergency or had overall test scores in the bottom 10 percent for two of the previous three years. More than 200 Ohio schools meet those criteria, according to a list on the Education Department’s website.
The program provides private school scholarships of $4,250 for students in kindergarten through eighth grade and $5,000 for students in grades nine through 12. However, if the private school tuition is lower than those amounts, the student receives only what’s needed to cover the tuition.
If the number of applications from the earlier and current sign-up periods exceeds the 30,000 cap, recipients will be determined through a lottery, the Education Department said.
The two-year state budget calls for expanding the program for the 2012-13 school year to 60,000 vouchers.