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Lawmaker Who Supports School Vouchers Agrees Legislature Must Fix Program

State Sen. Matt Huffman was elected president of the Ohio Senate for the next session.
Ohio Senate

A lawmaker who backed the expansion of the state’s largest voucher program says it’s creating problems, and is now joining calls for reforms.

The EdChoice program, which starts accepting applications in a few weeks, is expected to have a 400% increase in the number of public school buildings where students will be eligible for private school vouchers.

“There are a lot of schools on this list that shouldn't be on the list," says state Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima). Among those are buildings in some of the best and wealthiest school districts in the state.

Huffman has suggested changes like restricting vouchers in high wealth districts. He also proposed that eventually the state, not districts, could pay for the vouchers, which go up to $6,000 for high school students and $4,650 for younger kids.

“We have some school districts that get $200 from the state and that they pay $6,000 out for a voucher," Huffman says. "But there's other school districts getting $9,000 from the state and they actually make money off the program."

The EdChoice application process opens February 1, so Huffman said a quick fix is needed. But the House isn’t set to come back for voting until the end of January, and the Senate has two sessions next month. A change to the program would have to pass both chambers to be signed into law.

Huffman has long backed vouchers, but said he doesn’t think vouchers for everyone who wants them is practical or possible under the current system. But he supports that, and twice introduced a bill that would create a program for private and charter school vouchers that would provide them.