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Worthington Superintendent Offers Solution For Ohio's School Voucher Snafu

Thomas Worthington High School
Ward Worthington

Recent changes to how Ohio grades schools mean students in some of the state's best and richest districts could be eligible for vouchers to attend private schools.

The number of districts with low-performing schools rosefrom 40 in the fall of 2018 to around 400 for next year.

The 2020-2021 school year’s list includes schools in Upper Arlington, Dublin and Worthington.

“It’s incredibly ludicurous that we would look at some of our Worthington schools and think that they’re failing in any way,” says superintendent Trent Bowers.

He says three elementary schools are now eligible for the EdChoice voucher program because a specific component of their state report cards received a failing grade in recent years.

Losing students means losing money, because state tax dollars follow students from school to school. Bowers doesn’t believe a lot of Worthington students will leave, but he’s still concerned about the new set-up.

“It seems egregious," Bowers says. "I don’t think anybody would ever gauge that these would be failing schools.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are talking about alegislative correction before February 1, when the application process for next year’s vouchers begins. Bowers says they need to look at schools holistically when they do.

“Currently, they’re using specific criteria within the report card," he says. "These are schools that received overall As or Bs on their overall state report card. If they want to use the overall letter grade for the school, we think that would be more appropriate than trying to use only one small measure of that larger report card.”

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.