Editor’s Note: This is the first of two stories regarding the Education Choice Scholarship Program.
XENIA — Several school districts in Greene County could lose more students to private schools next year because of an expanding Educational Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) Program.
The program — launched in 2006 — provides up to 60,000 scholarships to students from under-performing public schools so they can attend participating private schools. It also provides low-income students who are entering kindergarten through sixth grade the same opportunity.
The number of individual schools where students are eligible to leave via EdChoice (also known as the voucher program) will jump from 487 this year to 1,233 next fall — more than one-third of all Ohio public schools. In all, 426 of Ohio’s 610 districts will have at least one building on the list including all Greene County districts except Bellbrook-Sugarcreek.
While that’s good news for private schools like Xenia Legacy Christian Academy and Carroll High School in Riverside — which has a large Greene County flavor — public superintendents are less than thrilled.
“It’s a crazy list,” Greeneview Superintendent Isaac Seevers said. “They’re (on the list) for all different things.”
Schools are placed on the EdChoice eligibility list if they fail to meet any of six performance markers tied to state report cards for schools including performance index, graduation rate, and K-3 literacy. The jump in eligible schools is due to 2016 legislation, which changed the program to include schools who received an F for the value-added progress dimension on the report card.
To allow districts to adjust to the new parameters, report cards from 2015-2017 were omitted from consideration to give districts a “safe harbor.” Next year is the first where two additional report cards (2017-18 and 2018-19) are used and as a result, more schools became eligible, according to Ohio Department of Education Deputy Director of Communications Mandy Minick.
Greeneview Middle and High schools are on the list for the first time as are Cedarville Elementary and Beavercreek High School. Other eligible schools include Xenia’s Cox, McKinley, and Shawnee elementary schools and Warner Middle School, as well as Xenia High School. Fairborn High and Primary schools and Mills Lawn Elementary in Yellow Springs are also listed.
“We are, of course, disappointed about the real-world impact on the district,” Xenia Superintendent Dr. Gabe Lofton said. “As we move forward, we will make adjustments as needed and continue to make the best decisions possible for our students.”
Beavercreek superintendent Paul Otten said the success their students achieve in and out of the classroom “speaks for itself.”
“It is unfortunate and unfair the Ohio legislature arbitrarily used a sliver of data on our otherwise solid report card to place us on the EdChoice Scholarship list,” Otten said via email. “It is telling that Beavercreek City Schools is among the many high performing districts that have been placed on the EdChoice Scholarship list: Centerville, Indian Hill, Kings Local, Mason City, Wyoming City, Lakota Local, these and others are districts any parent in Ohio would want their children to attend.”
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a reform think tank which promotes educational education for every child, supports the voucher program and the choice it gives families.
“Families should have the opportunity to choose the school that’s right for their kids,” said Fordham’s Ohio Research Director Aaron Churchill.
He added that districts had time to improve test scores because of the safe harbor.
“It sort of eased school districts into this more rigorous accountability system,” Churchill said.
Part two will take a look at the program’s potential financial impact on districts.