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House Democrats Throw Support Behind Income-Based School Vouchers

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron)
Andy Chow
Ohio Public Radio
House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron)

Ohio Democratic lawmakers are pushing for legislation that phases-out the EdChoice private school voucher program, which is based on public school performance. Legislators say the bipartisan House plan, SB89, puts the focus back on making sure the public school system is fair and efficient.

The Senate plan, HB9, would continue granting EdChoice vouchers by lowering the number of buildings that are deemed failing and increasing the threshold for income-based vouchers. The House plan would only grant vouchers to low-income families.

House Democrats have backed the plan created by Republican House leaders through the Senate's bill because income-based vouchers are paid by the state and not by local school districts.

State Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), House Minority Leader, says families will still have the freedom of school choice.

"You can have the opportunity to be educated well in the state of Ohio, and we cannot do that through our public school system if we are syphoning funds away from them to pay for other school opportunities which are not constitutionally mandated," Sykes says. "Those choices cannot be made at the expense of our public school system which we are constitutionally required to have a fair and efficient public school system."

The General Assembly has until April to come up with a new plan for EdChoice. The House has set nine conference committee meetings over the course of 10 days.

The Senate is likely to start another round of conference committee hearings on their plan for EdChoice soon.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.