Kasich plan quadruples schooling vouchers

DAYTON — The number of tuition vouchers parents could use to move their children from chronically low-performing public schools to private schools would quadruple under Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget.

The state is approaching the mandated 14,000 cap on vouchers, with 13,062 students already enrolled in the program this school year. The number of publicly funded vouchers would expand to 30,000 next year and 60,000 students by 2013 under the governor’s plan.

There are 110 students in Middletown City Schools who use private school vouchers to opt out of attending public schools designated as “academic watch” or “academic emergency” for two of the past three years. Of those 110 students, 61 are using the scholarship for the first year and 49 are considered renewals.

Four Butler County schools are designated for the EdChoice scholarship program, all of them in Middletown. Those schools are Amanda, Creekview and Rosa Parks elementary schools and Verity Middle School.

Five private schools in Butler County are registered to participate in the program. There are two such schools in Middletown — John XXIII, a Catholic elementary school serving preschool through eighth grade, and Middletown Christian Schools, a ministry of Grace Baptist Church serving preschool through high school.

State lawmakers have spent recent weeks hearing testimony on two separate bills that would expand the program in Ohio, including the governor’s budget proposal that would raise the number to 60,000 available vouchers by 2013.

House Bill 136, introduced in March, would create two new statewide voucher programs — one for K-12 students that would replace the EdChoice and Cleveland scholarship programs, and another for special education students.

“We’re not opposed to choice, but we do believe private schools should not be paid for with public money,” said Damon Asbury, director of legislative services for the Ohio School Boards Association in Columbus. “We believe the focus of the General Assembly’s attention should be on children in the public school system of Ohio,” Asbury said.

But Chad Aldis, executive director of School Choice Ohio, disagrees.

“The dollars we spend on education are to educate the kids,” he said. “Our position is the money should follow the child to where the parents believe they can get the best education.”

Staff Writer Eric Schwartzberg contributed to this report.

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