Gov. Kasich Proposes School Voucher Expansion
Updated: Friday, February 1 2013, 08:03 PM EST
COLUMBUS -- Governor John Kasich, (R )-Ohio, is asking the General Assembly to expand the state’s voucher program for Ohio’s poorest families, renewing the debate over school choice.
Advocates said the move will make a big difference for families struggling for a better life, while some who work with the poor expressed concern that more vouchers could erode the public school system that most families rely on.
“I’m concerned a lot of families will think it’s a good idea, but then discover that their kids can’t get into private schools anyway,” said Sarah Biehl, an education specialist with the Ohio Poverty Law Center.
Biehl said private schools can choose not to accept some children, and they don’t have to follow the same rules that apply to public and charter schools for suspending and ultimately expelling students.
“Private schools don’t have to provide services under the special education law [or] the individuals with disabilities education act,” Biehl added.
Expanding the state’s voucher program is one part of an education funding plan that Kasich outlined Thursday.
The governor says his plan will distribute state resources so that students can compete and succeed no matter how wealthy their school district. The plan increases current state spending on education by $1.2 billion over two years.
The plan would add more than $25 million for school vouchers for children whose families earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or approximately $46,000 per year for a family of four.
The vouchers would be available to kindergarteners in the 2013-2014 school year, and kindergartners and first-graders in the following school year.
Ohio already provides vouchers for students who live in under-performing school districts.
School choice advocates expect Ohio’s Republican-controlled General Assembly to support Kasich’s plan.
“Those students are left pretty much without a chance to escape from the situation they’re in, or just to explore their own reach or potential,” said Sarah Pechan, Senior Director of Programs at School Choice Ohio.
Pechan said it’s unclear how many families will take advantage of the program, discounting concerns that more vouchers will have a damaging-effect on Ohio public schools.
Until the doors of private schools are opened to disadvantaged, there’s no way to know the effect on the public school system, but Pechan predicted, “There are many, many wonderful public school options that families could continue to have access to.”
Reporter: Dana Jay
Web Producer: Ken Hines