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School Voucher Dispute Settled For Now As A Part Of Coronavirus Changes

Licking Heights High School freshmen take notes in a World History class taught by Amy Obhof..
Andy Chow
Ohio Public Radio

Inside the omnibus coronavirus bill passed by the Ohio legislature Wednesday was a measure that settles an issue lawmakers have been struggling with for months. That’s the question of how many students would qualify next school year for the state’s largest private school voucher program.

The legislation freezes the number of EdChoice buildings at 517, the same number as this school year. New rules for determining whether students were eligible based on their school buildings would have sent that number soaring to over 1,200 schools.

House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said he understands families who were hoping for the bigger list are disappointed, but this is the right resolution.

“The portal never opened, and so they’ve never been granted that voucher," Householder said.

Lawmakers had delayed the window to apply for EdChoice from February 1 to April 1.

The legislation does allow siblings, incoming kindergarten students and students going into high school to get vouchers if their building is on the current list.

The conservative Citizens For Community Values, representing parents of children in private schools, had sued Ohio over the delay in processing applications.

Before the coronavirus outbreak, the Ohio House and Senate had struggled to negotiate long-term changes to the EdChoice program. Schools said that the ballooning number of children eliglble for vouchers would have been a financial hit.

Some proposals would have either altered the school performance-based system, or scrapped it entirely in favor of an income-based system.