What is School Choice?

More and more parents have recognized the need for school choice when it comes to the needs of their children. As a result, families’ right to have a choice for their students’ education has become a highly debated topic all over the United States, especially in this year’s mid-term elections. But what exactly is school choice?

The School Choice movement is based on the following foundational beliefs:

  • There should be equity in education. The ability to choose the right fit for a child’s education should not be limited to only the wealthy.
  • Parents know best. Families know their children best and should be able to choose the school that will work best for their children.
  • A one-size-fits-all approach does not work. What works for one child may not work for another child.
  • No family should feel like their child is trapped in a school that is not working for that child.
  • Scholarship programs allow parents the freedom of choice in their student’s education.

Each year more and more families are looking for different educational options for their students. This has become much more evident during the COVID pandemic and its aftermath on education when parents started to see the reality of their child’s education. Families started looking for better options in order to help their children get the education that they need and frankly, deserve.

As the debate continues, we will continue to highlight the facts and myths about school choice. In the meantime, it is important to know how school choice works for Ohio families.

Educational Options in Ohio

Ohio offers a variety of educational options for families.

  • Public (local) schools are available to all students. Every student is assigned a public school based on his or her address.
  • Magnet or Lottery Schools are part of a local school district. They are schools with a specialized theme that may have a selective or lottery-based admissions process.
  • Charter schools are independently operated public schools with open admission and offer flexibility with curriculum, scheduling, and learning environments.
  • Private schools may have selective admission and offer students an education based on certain beliefs, values, or religion. Private schools are run by private, non-profit entities.
  • Homeschooling is available to families who want to take their child’s education into their own hands.

School Choice in Ohio

School Choice programs work differently from state to state. Each program is created and enacted into law by state lawmakers. In Ohio, there are three school choice voucher programs: the Cleveland Scholarship, Traditional EdChoice and the Income-based (Expansion) program.

Cleveland Scholarship Program

The Cleveland Scholarship was the first scholarship program in Ohio. It began in the 1996-97 school year for students who reside in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. The program allows families to access a scholarship for their student ($5,500 for K-8 and $7,500 for 9-12) to use at the private school of their choice. The student can continue to utilize the scholarship until graduation, provided the student continues to meet eligibility requirements.

Traditional EdChoice Scholarship Program

The EdChoice program was passed into Ohio law in 2005. The program allows families whose student would be assigned to a designated (or low performing) school building to access a scholarship ($5,500 for K-8 and $7,500 for 9-12) to use at the private school of their choice. The student can continue to utilize the scholarship until graduation, provided the student continues to meet eligibility requirements.

Families whose income exceeds the low-income guidelines pay the difference between the awarded scholarship amount and the actual cost of tuition at the school they choose. Families are able to perform volunteer hours at the school to offset the out-of-pocket tuition costs when opportunities are available.

If a family meets income requirements, the accepting school agrees to waive the difference between the scholarship amount and the costs of actual tuition. As a result, private schools who accept EdChoice scholarships are operating at a much less cost-per-student budget than other school options.

Income-Based Expansion Scholarship Program

Ohio expanded its scholarship program in 2013 by adding the Income-Based (Expansion) scholarship. Unlike the Traditional EdChoice program, students can qualify for a scholarship regardless of where they reside as long as they live in Ohio. The scholarship is based on household income. The scholarship amounts ($5,500 for K-8 ad $7,500 for 9-12) are the same as for Traditional EdChoice.

Recently, Ohio passed House Bill 583 which changed renewal criteria for the Income-Based scholarship. Now families whose students have previously qualified for the Income-based Scholarship may continue on the scholarship through graduation, regardless of increases in household income. If household increases, the family would only need to pay the difference between the scholarship amount and the actual cost of tuition for the school of choice.

Ohio also offers scholarships for students with special needs; the Autism Scholarship and the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship. We will highlight educational options and resources for students with special needs in an upcoming article.

School Choice Ohio

School Choice Ohio was established to empower Ohio families with excellent educational options for every child.

Do you need assistance? Have questions? Want to know more? We are here to help!

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