Lawmakers move to delay Ohio school voucher applications

January 31, 2020 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Families seeking to apply for Ohio’s biggest school voucher program may have to wait another two months if the governor approves the Legislature’s move to delay the start of that window to April 1.

Applications had been set to begin Saturday for the program known as EdChoice, which is supposed to help fund private school tuition for students from poor-performing districts and schools.

Lawmakers have been considering possible changes to avoid a looming spike in the number of qualifying locations for the program. Unable to reach agreement by this weekend, they voted to postpone the start of applications and allow time for further consideration.

The Republican-led Senate voted Friday to agree with the House on the delay.

The Senate earlier in the week approved a proposal to shrink the list of eligible locations while expanding for income-based scholarships. The GOP-led House rejected that and offered its own proposal to take an income-based approach to vouchers instead of basing them on school performance, and to have the vouchers directly funded by the state rather than deducting from a student’s local public district.

School choice advocates have criticized lawmakers for the timing, arguing it’s unfair to parents who have been making plans for months.

Public school officials have complained that expanded eligibility would funnel more state money away from their facilities and to private, often religious, schools. Some of those officials pointed to problems with the state report card system, which is used to grade schools and helps determine EdChoice eligibility. They noted there were instances where a low grade in a single category got public schools added to the list even though they or their districts were rated as high-performing overall.