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Akron school board votes to join Ohio voucher lawsuit

 Akron Public Schools headquarters in Downtown Akron.
Ryan Loew
/
Ideastream Public Media
Akron Public Schools headquarters in downtown Akron. The board of education voted June 24, 2024, to join a coalition of 250-plus schools that have filed a lawsuit against the state over Ohio's private school voucher system.

The Akron Board of Education voted Monday night to join a coalition of more than 250 other schools in a lawsuit against Ohio’s school voucher system.

The district will pay $2 per student annually – about $40,000 – to join the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, which filed the lawsuit several years ago.

The suit alleges the voucher system, which is estimated to cost the state up to a billion dollars this year alone, is funneling money the public education system needs toward private schools.

The state last year expanded the program to allow almost anyone in the state to receive a voucher to pay to send their children to private school, regardless of income (although the dollar amount decreases as families’ income increases). Families with an income at 450% of the poverty line or less receive the full amount: $6,166 for students in grades K–8 and $8,408 for grades 9-12.

Akron Board of Education member Barbara Sykes, who introduced the resolution, said that in the past, vouchers were created as a way to provide children from low-income families with better education options. She argued that’s no longer the case, with many families who can already afford to send their children to private schools taking the vouchers.

“Let us all fight together to get vouchers out of private sectors and (bring) money back into our budget so that we can adequately educate, train, raise and take care of our children,” she said.

Vice Chair Carla Jackson, who is an administrator at a private school in Akron, argued families deserve the ability to choose which schools they want to attend. She voted no on the resolution.

“The dollar should follow the child, and the parents have a right to choose whether that's a public charter or private charter (school),” she said. “As citizens who pay taxes, we all pay it and we all have some skin in the game.”

Board Chair Diana Autry said she believes the current voucher system is unconstitutional.

“When it comes to public dollars, the majority of citizens attend public schools,” she added.

The lawsuit is headed for a trial in a Franklin County court in November.

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Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.