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10th Period: Ohio's Disastrous Voucher Explosion

Remember all that talk about how Ohio’s vouchers provided children of color “better” opportunities?

Well forget THAT talking point, for now there’s an even more serious Brown v. Board re-segregation problem.

Data from the Ohio Department of Education proves once and for all that Ohio’s radical decision to explode the amount of money going to publicly subsidize Ohio’s private schools has provided tens of millions of dollars to mostly White, largely wealthy parents. All while the state refuses to fully fund the educations of the 1.6 million students in our state’s public schools.

How bad is it? Let’s take a look, shall we?

  • Of the 32,236 new applications for EdChoice Expansion (which used to be called the “income-based” voucher, but isn’t anymore for all practical purposes (SEE BELOW)), a stunning 28,238 went to White students — nearly 9 in 10

  • Of the 44,839 new vouchers issued this year in all 5 programs (Autism, Cleveland, EdChoice, EdChoice Expansion and John Peterson Special Education), 33,874 went to White students — about 3 of every 4.

Before you say, “Wait! That’s a smaller percentage of White students than the overall Ohio student population!” (first of all, only 66% of Ohio’s school children are White, but stick with me here) take a look at this:

  • More than 9 in 10 EdChoice vouchers come from 31 school districts. Those districts’ racial makeup is, on average, 21% White. Yet 46% of EdChoice Voucher recipients are White — more than double the percentage of White students than attend the 31 public school districts where 9 in 10 voucher students would otherwise attend.

  • 9 in 10 EdChoice Expansion vouchers come from 236 districts. On average, 72% of students in those 236 districts are White. However, 80% of EdChoice Expansion recipients are White — an 11% greater rate of White students. And, as stated above, 90% of the new vouchers this year are going to White students — a 25% greater rate than those 236 districts where 90% of the voucher students come from.

The results from individual voucher schools can also be startling.

Let’s look at Lima, shall we, Senate President Huffman?

  • Lima is 35% White and 65% non-white

  • However, in both Temple Christian School and St. Charles School, every EdChoice voucher recipient is White. And only 45 of 252 EdChoice and EdChoice Expansion students in those schools are multiracial. No Black or Hispanic students take a voucher to go to those schools. From a community whose public schools are 36% Black and 9% Hispanic.

Now let’s look at the money going to EdChoice Expansion. Because it was supposed to be an “income-based” voucher, right? Meaning, the vouchers should go to poor students who need help paying for private school options. I mean, that’s what we were told they were.

Welp, that myth is busted. This year’s expansion is truly outrageous.

According to state data, more new EdChoice Expansion Voucher high school recipients come from families making more than $150,000 a year than families making less than $120,000 a year.

That’s right.

There are more new vouchers flowing to subsidize private high school students whose families make as much as $250,000 a year (or MORE!) than there are flowing to subsidize private high school students whose families make less than 1/2 that much.

An astounding $1.3 million of your tax dollars went to subsidize the private school tuitions of families who make more than $250,000 a year!

On the regular EdChoice voucher (based on performance of school you attend), $242 million of the $272 million sent out to subsidize private school tuition went to families in the highest income brackets. That’s nearly $9 out of every $10 going to subsidize private school tuitions through regular EdChoice went to subsidize families who could already afford to send their kids to private schools.

Yet the Ohio General Assembly and Gov. Mike DeWine thought these folks should get some of your tax dollars to subsidize those decisions they’ve already made.

Oh yeah, and none of the money gets audited (because we’ve never had trouble with privately run schools swindling taxpayers), and in nearly 9 in 10 cases, the public schools in which the private schools getting vouchers reside do better than those private schools on state tests.

So let me bottom line this for everyone:

Nearly 9 in 10 new EdChoice Expansion vouchers are going to White students — a nearly 25% greater percentage than the districts where 90% of the voucher students come from. More new high school “income-based” vouchers go to families making more than $150,000 a year than make less than $120,000 a year. And even though the voucher program is now expected to cost more than $1 billion, not a single penny can be (nor ever HAS been) audited by the state or any public entity. And the private schools getting vouchers perform worse on state tests than the public schools where the private schools reside.

Sign. Me. Up.

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Stephen Dyer

Stephen Dyer is the Education Policy Fellow at Innovation Ohio. He also practices law in the Akron, Ohio area. Previously he was the State Representative for the ...