The Cleveland Scholarship & Tutoring Program got a shout-out from a student in this Thanksgiving Day photo from Saint Martin de Porres, a Cleveland private school. Check out her sign in the bottom-right corner of this photo!
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means we will soon be gathering with friends and family to celebrate and be thankful. So, it only seems fitting that we feature stories this week from students located all across the state who are thankful to receive a scholarship to attend the school of their choice.
The Cleveland Scholarship means a lot to me because without it I wouldn’t be able to attend my school. Having this scholarship gives me a chance to be someone in life by getting a good education. Without having a good education, I would not be able to do what I plan to do in life.
The Cleveland Scholarship is helping me by urging me to keep my grades up and to be accountable for my responsibilities. My dreams mean a lot to me, and with this scholarship, I’ll reach them. My dream is to be in sports medicine or to be a psychologist. I want to help people. My dreams are to make my grandmother happy and for her to see me graduate high school and college.
I think the promise of my scholarship is to give me a chance to be able to have an education at a good school. My mother always wanted my older brother, sister, and myself to be successful in life. Our education means a lot to her, and with this scholarship I’ll be able to make my mother proud.
School choice has entered a new world. Americans are becoming increasingly vocal about the importance of empowering parents to choose their children’s schools, and states across the nation, including Ohio, are adopting broad-based school choice initiatives.
The “Christopher Columbus” of school choice in this country is Nobel-prize winning economist Milton Friedman, who pioneered this movement more than 50 years ago.
In 1955, Friedman introduced school choice as a way to improve the quality of American education. His idea was simple: give parents access to their children’s public education funding rather than require they attend the public schools nearest to their homes.
“Governments could require a minimum level of education which they could finance by giving parents vouchers redeemable for a specified maximum sum per child per year if spent on ‘approved’ educational services,” Friedman wrote in 1955. “Parents would then be free to spend this sum and any additional sum on purchasing educational services from an ‘approved’ institution of their own choice.”
At first, Friedman’s suggestions lived mostly as an academic exercise with little in the way of new programs. And without the reforms he suggested, the cost of public education doubled while its academic performance stayed the same. As Friedman noted, that shouldn’t come as a surprise because that’s exactly what monopolies do. They offer a product of similar, if not worse, value at a higher price than normally would be allowed if they had to compete in the free market.
But those days are over. Parents are fed up, wondering why their kids are underperforming or unmotivated in K-12 schools and unprepared for their college courses and future careers. They want the life-changing opportunity to choose the school that will best prepare their child for lifelong success. Parents are demanding that their children receive a high quality education that best meets their learning needs.
Because of that sentiment, last year a historic number of choice programs were enacted across the country. Substantiating that momentum, The Wall Street Journal called 2011 “The Year of School Choice” and school choice programs have continued to expand in 2012.
Today, 18 states and the District of Columbia provide some type of private school choice for their residents. Already in 2012, Virginia has joined the school choice “family;” New Hampshire’s legislature has passed a school choice measure; Florida and Arizona expanded their programs; and Louisiana dramatically increased the scope of its school voucher program.
In Ohio, we recently saw the creation of the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program, a scholarship that allows any student with special needs to attend the public or private school of their choice. Along with Ohio’s three other school voucher programs – the EdChoice Scholarship Program, the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, and the Ohio Autism Scholarship Program – and a growing number of outstanding public school options, Ohio families now enjoy more opportunities than ever to find a great school that is a great fit for their children.
This month would have been Milton Friedman’s 100th birthday. Though it took America more than 50 years to reach today’s environment in which parent empowerment in education is celebrated and not ridiculed, the battle was worth it.
As the school choice movement gathers momentum, it is changing lives one by one as it allows students to reach their true potential and empowers parents with options.
For the first time in the program’s history, Cleveland high school students were eligible to apply this year for the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program. The application period closed on May 31, and the Ohio Department of Education reports that a total of 398 high school students applied.
High school eligibility for the Cleveland scholarship program was added to the budget that Governor Kasich signed on June 30, 2011. Prior to that, only students in grades K-8 were eligible to apply.
Without this change in eligibility, these 398 students would have had to struggle to pay for private high school or simply leave. Now, their families can focus on saving money for college instead of worrying about paying private high school tuition.
In 1980, Fannie M. Lewis was elected to the Cleveland City Council. Lewis was a strong advocate of school vouchers. The Plain Dealer called the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris case one of her biggest victories.
“It’s like a burning house. You know, what do you do, let the house burn down and kill everybody or go in there and save who you can? And that’s what the voucher’s about. If I decide that I want to take a voucher and go shop for my child then I ought to be able to do that…Why do you want to limit me to where I can go and buy my education from?”
-Fannie M. Lewis (Frontline, “The Battle over School Choice” Air date 5/23/00)
For having the courage to stand up for Cleveland’s children, Fannie M. Lewis will forever be remembered as an inspiration and a champion for school choice. During our recent celebration in Cleveland, we honored Senator Nina Turner, Representative Bill Patmon, and Friends of Breakthrough Schools President John Zitzner with School Choice Ohio Courage Awards in memory of Fannie Lewis, and in honor of their unwavering commitment to securing a quality education for Cleveland students. See their acceptance speeches below.
School Choice Ohio recently gathered with 700 parents, students, school leaders, supporters, and special guests in Cleveland to celebrate the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed the constitutionality of school vouchers. Baylor University President Ken Starr, who advised Ohio on the Zelman case, traveled to Cleveland for the celebration. He spoke about the promise of the Cleveland scholarship and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Watch his speech from the celebration below.
School Choice Ohio recently gathered with 700 parents, students, school leaders, supporters, and special guests in Cleveland to celebrate the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed the constitutionality of school vouchers. We were thrilled to have national school choice advocate Kevin Chavous share about the significance of the Zelman v. Simmons-Harris decision on a national level. We are happy to share his speech with all of you who couldn’t make it to the event in Cleveland. Check it out below.
When the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Zelman v Simmons-Harris case on February 20, 2002, it was the beginning of the end of very long legal journey.
The Pilot Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program was enacted as part of the 1996-97 biennial state budget and was modeled on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Voucher Program, which was the first of its kind in the nation, enacted in 1990. That program, which initially excluded religious private schools from participating due to concerns over First Amendment issues, had already withstood a legal challenge that only went as far as the Wisconsin Supreme Court. However, an expansion of the program in 1995 that among other things allowed religious schools to accept voucher students set off another round of legal wrangling in regard to concerns of violating the separation of church and state. This also ended in the Wisconsin Supreme Court when the U.S. Supreme Court in 1998 declined to hear an appeal. When the dust settled, the 1995 expansion was approved in full and religious private schools were allowed to accept students on the program and the state money from their vouchers.
Meanwhile, in Cleveland, 1,500 students began using vouchers to attend the private school of their choice in the 96-97 school year. But before those students even began school, the constitutionality of the program was challenged in court, due to the inclusion of religious schools. Indeed, 77 percent of that first group of students attended a religious-affiliated private school, amounting to millions of dollars going to those religious schools to support the education of scholarship recipients.
The first Ohio challenge ended in May 1999, with victory for opponents of the program, when the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the program due to the way in which the Legislature approved the bill creating the program. But the state legislature reauthorized the program in a different manner the very next month, obviating the concerns of the Ohio Supreme Court and continuing the program uninterrupted.
The second challenge to the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program began less than a month later, on July 20, when a coalition of opponents filed suit in federal court, once again on grounds that the scholarship program violated the Constitution’s First Amendment separation of church and state.
On August 24, a federal judge ruled that the program was unconstitutional and additionally ordered current voucher recipients to return to Cleveland Public Schools for the 1999-2000 school year. The resulting negative response led the judge three days later to amend his ruling and allow current scholarship students to remain in their private schools but preventing the most recent awardees from starting in a new private school.
The injunction on the new students was immediately appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was not taken up, and then directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. On November 5, the District Court injunction was stayed and the new students were allowed to take up their scholarships in their chosen private schools.
However, on December 11, 2000, the 6th Circuit Court sustained the original Federal Court ruling that the entire Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program was unconstitutional and later denied the Ohio Attorney General’s request for a full-panel hearing on the matter.
On September 25, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.
Oral arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court took place on February 25, 2002, but that’s another story.
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An email from the Ohio Department of Education this week confirms the elimination of the parent co-pay in the Cleveland voucher. The scholarship will now be paid out in the same way and same amounts as the EdChoice Scholarship, except that high school students can be required to pay the tuition overage.
This is a huge win for Cleveland parents!
Dear Cleveland Scholarship Parent:
Recent legislative changes have eliminated the family share percentage effective for the 2012-2013 school year. Previously, parents were responsible for paying 10 or 25 percent of the scholarship amount. Students will now receive the maximum scholarship amount of $4250 for grades K-8 and $5000 for grades 9-12 not exceeding the actual tuition amount of the private school. Family tuition responsibilities are now as follows:
- Students in grades K-8 whose family income is at or below two hundred percent of the federal poverty guideline are not responsible for any remaining tuition beyond the scholarship amount.
- Students in grades K-8 whose family income is above two hundred percent of the federal poverty guideline will be charged any remaining tuition that goes beyond the scholarship amount.
- Students in grades 9-12 whose family income is at or below two hundred percent of the federal poverty guideline will be charged any remaining tuition that goes beyond the scholarship amount.
- Students in grades 9-12 whose family income is above two hundred percent of the federal poverty guideline will be charged any remaining tuition that goes beyond the scholarship amount.
As in the past, the Cleveland scholarship covers tuition only. Parents and guardians continue to remain responsible for additional fees such as registration, graduation or any similar fees. Please contact your participating private school if you have questions regarding your tuition amount or volunteer service activities available in lieu of cash payments.
Thank you for your continued participation in the Cleveland Scholarship Program!
Cleveland Scholarship Program Staff
The Ohio Legislature completed its spring session this week, but not before enacting several pieces of legislation that significantly expand parental choice in education.
Monday saw Gov. John Kasich sign House Bill (HB) 487 into law. HB487, the Mid-Biennium Budget Review (MBR) included among its many provisions the elimination of the parent co-pay for the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program (CSTP).
Since the inception of the Cleveland scholarship in 1997, parents of students receiving the scholarship have been required to make an out-of-pocket payment to cover between 10-25 percent of the cost of the scholarships, depending on their income. The intent as originally introduced was for parents to be partners with the state in covering the cost of these scholarships but it didn’t take into account that parents already have to pay the additional school fees that are not covered by the scholarship.
In the 15 years since the Cleveland scholarship was introduced, three additional scholarships have been created in Ohio, and none of these scholarships have required a parent co-pay. The co-pay has been a significant financial hardship to the parents who have chosen to participate, and in many cases prevented parents who could not afford the co-payment from electing to send their children to the school of their choice.
Thanks to the leadership of Representative Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland), as well the leaders of the House and Senate finance committees, the co-pay requirement was removed in HB487. The change was effective immediately, which means that no CSTP recipient will have to pay for part of their own scholarship in the upcoming 2012-13 school year.
Along with the increase of the CSTP voucher amount to parity with EdChoice and the new eligibility of high school students for the voucher program that were added earlier, this has been a VERY good year for Cleveland students.
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Wednesday, the legislature completed work on two significant educational reform measures, House Bill 525, the so-called ‘Cleveland Plan’ and Senate Bill (SB) 316, the Education MBR.
The Cleveland Plan will impact only the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, but its impact could have far-reaching impact on all school districts throughout the state of Ohio in the years to come. Among the many provisions included in the bill is:
- The ability of the leaders of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to modify the length of the current school day or school year, with the option of adopting a year-round schooling option.
- The ability to share property tax money with partnering charter schools in the district. This fund will provide money to partnering charter schools based on the number of students from Cleveland that attend. When voters are asked to approve these levy dollars, the question to appear on the ballot will indicate how much of the funds will be provided to charter schools, so voters are aware ahead of time how much will be provided to these public entities.
School Choice Ohio was among the many interested parties that participated in the discussion and development of the Cleveland Plan. SCO was proud to stand in support of this bold approach to education reform in one of our state’s most struggling districts and believes that this will serve as a model for education reform not only in Ohio but across the nation.
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SB316, the Education MBR, included a number of reform measures which School Choice Ohio sought to have included. Foremost among the changes is that school districts are now required to let parents know about the Autism and Special Needs Scholarships during each IEP meeting. We hope this will be a huge step forward in letting families know about the options they have available to them.
Each of the new provisions will greatly expand availability and awareness of the scholarship programs available to families throughout Ohio. School Choice Ohio salutes the members of the Ohio General Assembly and Governor Kasich for their continued support for expanded parental choice options in Ohio.
The General Assembly is currently on recess until after the fall elections. We do anticipate a busy “lame duck” session later this year as the 129th General Assembly completes its work.
In the meantime, don’t forget to start getting to know your legislative candidates and engaging them in conversations about school choice (www.scohio.org/candidates).