EdChoice vouchers: Students living in suburban districts part of largest use increase in Ohio

Ohio school districts located in suburbs saw some of the largest increases in students using EdChoice vouchers in the past year to attend private schools.

In the Dayton area, Centerville City Schools had the second-highest number of students living in the district and attending private schools on vouchers this past school year, according to the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce data.

Although the number of students in suburban public school districts using vouchers increased, it didn’t mean enrollment went down in those districts.

The change is attributable to the current state budget, passed last summer, that expanded families who were eligible. Under that budget, any Ohioan who makes up to 450% of the poverty line — $150,000 for a family of four — is eligible for a full EdChoice Expansion Scholarship. Ohio families who make more than that are eligible for at least 10% of the scholarship.

In Montgomery County, Dayton Public Schools has the highest number of students living in the district and attending private schools on vouchers, but most of the district’s students have been eligible for vouchers for years. Most students in Centerville were not eligible for vouchers until this past school year.

In the 2022-2023 school year, Huber Heights had the second-most students attending private schools on vouchers in Montgomery County. But in the past year, the district was not in the Top 10 in the area.

Centerville administrators said they are more concerned about how the state funds public schools than lost of enrollment to private schools.

“The enrollment at Centerville City Schools has remained steady for at least the past 15 years, so it does not seem like the EdChoice Expansion Program is impacting the district’s overall enrollment,” said Jon Wesney, the district’s superintendent.

Wesney noted there are multiple private education options located in Centerville, including Incarnation and Spring Valley. According to a Dayton Daily News analysis, Incarnation added 673 school vouchers to its school in 2023-2024, but enrollment was flat, meaning that many people who were already attending started taking vouchers.

“We believe the increased number of vouchers is going to families who were already enrolled in these other educational options,” Wesney said.

Members of Centerville school board have been advocating for increased funding for public schools in the last few years. Voters in the Centerville school district have voted down two levies in the last year while more than 75% of Centerville’s school funding comes from local property taxes.

The state of Ohio awarded $993.7 million for families to send kids to private schools last school year. This is $383.7 million more than the year before and over $30 million more than legislative analysists predicted when lawmakers expanded the voucher program last year.

Lawmakers said universal access to the EdChoice expansion program would give more families access to a private school education. But a Dayton Daily News analysis of Ohio Department of Education data found so far, it’s largely subsidizing families already sending their kids to private schools.

The number of income-based EdChoice vouchers used in private schools in six area counties — Montgomery, Miami, Greene, Warren, Butler and Clark — jumped from 3,058 in the 2022-2023 school year to 12,637 last year.

But while voucher usage grew by 313%, enrollment at schools that accept vouchers grew by only 3.7%, to 20,142 students.

Dr. David Roer, one of the members of the board of education, noted that the students who live in Centerville and use vouchers to attend other private schools would be about 10% of the district’s current enrollment.

“I don’t mind people getting the ability to take their child to a private religious school, no problem at all,” Roer said. “But make it fair and equitable for those that are remaining in public schools and want to go to a public school.”

Several Butler County districts also saw an expanded number of kids living in their districts and taking vouchers. The Lakota, Fairfield and Hamilton districts all have a large number of students living in their districts and using EdChoice vouchers.

Beavercreek and Springboro schools also saw an increase in the number of students living in their districts and using vouchers to attend private schools. Both districts now have roughly 10% of the population that attends their public school registered for vouchers in private schools.

EdChoice vouchers  
School districtStudents using EdChoice vouchersDistrict enrollment 2023-24
Dayton Public3,15112,452
Source: Ohio Department of Education and Workforce 

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