Mary Alice Reporting – Public schools have previously voiced opposition over Educational Choice Vouchers and this remains as the Ohio Legislature considers Senate Bill 368.

The Parent Educational Freedom Act would qualify every kindergarten through 12th-grade student for a state-funded voucher that would offset the cost of attending a nonpublic school of their choice. Current law limits the EdChoice Vouchers to low-income students and those in low-performing districts.

Indian Valley Superintendent Ira Wentworth voiced his position on the matter and noted Bill 368 does not follow the Ohio Constitution.

“Says that the General Assembly shall provide, throughout the state, a thorough and efficient, common schools. What this [bill] is doing, this is providing tax dollars, public tax dollars to go to private institutions and that’s not constitutional.”

He also noted concerns over disparities that would still exist, especially for rural families, who would have long distances to take a child to a private school, with the price of gasoline, inflation, and other associated costs being a barrier.

Wentworth said it’s also important to keep public tax dollars in the public school sector and if the proposed bill would meet final approval, it would have a negative financial impact on districts and their budgets. 

“The eight public school districts, for example, in Tuscarawas County, receive so many dollars per child [and] if they incentivize families to leave public school systems and go to a private school, that the state pays for, that’s a deduction from our tax receipts or we just don’t get the funding because we lost that child.”

Wentworth added that if a family “wants something other than what the public provides, then the family pays for that”, meaning the private education. He also pointed out that, especially in Tuscarawas County, there’s the choice of open enrollment.

Senate Bill 368 is currently in the Primary and Secondary Education Committee. In connection, a class action lawsuit, filed in January 2022, consisting of over 120 public schools, is challenging EdChoice’s constitutionality.

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