Lakota Schools Superintendent Matt Miller continued his public lobbying against recent changes in Ohio’s EdChoice private school tuition program, which will cost public schools millions of tax dollars, during his coffee chat with school parents Wednesday. The informal, monthly meetings by Miller often cover a wide variety of topics but EdChoice largely dominated this gathering. (Photo By Michael D. Clark/Journal-News)

‘It’s a mess’: Butler County school leader continues to blast state EdChoice program

In recent weeks Lakota Schools Superintendent Matt Miller has been one of the more outspoken area school leaders blasting the coming changes in Ohio’s EdChoice program.

The state’s private-school funding program, which will expand at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, will force public schools to pay millions of dollars for private school tuition should eligible public school students transfer to non-public schools.

MORE: Expanded school choice program draws ire of local public schools

But during Miller’s regular, monthly coffee chat with about a dozen school parents and residents, he renewed his criticisms of EdChoice.

“It’s a mess,” he said. “And if anything, we should press pause … for some changes and fixes.

“We are fighting this battle when we have bigger and better things we should be doing for our kids.”

Miller said he would prefer the EdChoice program eligibility not be tied to the state’s annual grade card’s oft-criticized measurements of public schools.

“I’m OK with choice and options for your kids. I’m not okay with public tax dollars going to the private schools,” he said.

Under the most recent Ohio Department of Education report card, many schools that previously were graded as achieving are now labeled as “underperforming” making their students eligible to leave with public school funding for private school tuition.

On the other side of the issue, private school parents are applauding the expanded voucher program, saying giving all school families more funding choices in where their children will be educated is overdue.

MORE: Expanding school vouchers: What both sides are saying in heated Ohio issue

Ohio went from fewer than 300 school buildings deemed eligible for vouchers in the 2018-19 school year to more than 1,200 school buildings statewide now labeled as “under performing,” a 300 percent increase in two school years.

Next school year, 36 school buildings in Butler County will be designated as underperforming, so parents will be eligible for EdChoice funding to send their children to private schools.

In Warren County 13 schools will be eligible for EdChoice funding.

Lakota school parent Alyssa Louagie said the new state law forcing a student’s former public school district to pay thousands of dollars for their entire private school education through to high school graduation makes little sense.

“The idea that they (students) get the (tuition) money forever is not logical. I’m hopeful the legislators will realize the challenges with these changes,” said Louagie.

“School choice is important but how you administer that choice is just as important,” she said.

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