By Tricia Hall
The Truth Reporter
A coalition that includes Toledo Public Schools, Toledo Federation of Teachers, the Ohio Coalition of Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, and also Vouchers Hurt Ohio organized a meeting to rally supporters against Ohio’s proposed expansion of school vouchers at the Downtown Library on Tuesday, May 9, 2023. Attendees included school administrators, teachers, parents and residents.
In January 2022, Vouchers Hurt Ohio filed the lawsuit in Franklin County Common Court. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionality under five separate claims, requiring that each claim receives a separate decision as the suit proceeds through the justice system.
According to Bill Phillis, executive director of Coalition of Equity & Adequacy in School Funding, the Attorney General for Ohio tried to get the case dismissed but a judge ruled against it, allowing all five claims to advance. The case could be ultimately decided by the Ohio Supreme Court some time in the future. “Vouchers could easily pass the legislature but not the court system. The lawsuit is a slow process but it is moving forward,” said Phillis.
According to Vouchers Hurt Ohio’s website, 140 school districts out of 611 have signed on in support of the lawsuit. Attendees were asked to urge their school boards to issue a resolution to join the lawsuit.
“Lobby your school board members in your district to join this lawsuit, 220 districts have already signed up,” shared Polly Taylor-Gerken, Toledo Public School board member.
One of the speakers also mentioned that the following local school district have not signed up for the lawsuit: Anthony Wayne, Oregon and Maumee. He noted that these districts could be waiting for the resolution to come from the superintendent.
Critics of the existing voucher program cited concerns.
“Vouchers for Ohio hurt kids, teachers and communities. If a student attends Washington Local Schools, the district receives $4,200 but if that same student attends a private school that school would receive $7,500. We accept every student. This universal voucher program will hurt the schools, students, teachers and community worse. This is a winning lottery ticket for private schools.” said Kadee Anstadt, Washington Local Schools superintendent.
“The only real choice is for the private schools because they choose whether to admit your child or not. The power is not with the student or the parent,” shared Ryan Lockwood, Springfield Local Schools treasurer.
Taylor-Gerken shared stories of 22 students who had difficult experiences with the Ohio voucher program. Of the shared stories, the common themes were that each student owed a balance for the private school tuition which threatened his or her ability to graduate. There were some students who were able to graduate with assistance from others to pay off the balance, others who decided not to graduate and others who delayed graduation.
According to the Ed Choice website, the voucher is called the Ohio Income-Based Scholarship Program that determines eligibility to receive a voucher to a private or non-public K-12 qualified school based off income and other criteria. The voucher can be awarded up to $5,500 for students in grades K-8 and $7,500 for students in high school.
Families that are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level cannot be charged the difference between tuition and the voucher, meaning students above 200 percent will owe the balance between tuition and the voucher. The program has seen a steady increase of participation, in 2014 1,051 students participated in the program in 2022 over 20,000 students participated.
In addition to speaking in support of the lawsuit earlier in the meeting, Teresa Fedor, Ohio State Board of Education member spoke against Ohio House Bill 11 and Ohio Senate Bill 11. “It will move control of public education to the Governor’s office,” said Fedor. “There will be little oversight and will fall into a black hole. It was moved with an Ohio constitutional amendment to create a separate branch to focus on public education. These republicans have been in power for over 30 years and have failed our children and our communities.”
The meeting included the following speakers: Polly Taylor-Gerken, TPS board member; Bill Phillis, Executive Director, Coalition of Equality & Adequacy in School Funding; Teresa Fedor, Ohio State Board of Education member; Kadee Anstadt, Superintendent, Washington Local School district; Ryan Lockwood, Treasurer, Springfield Local School district; Kevin Dalton, president, Toledo Federation of Teachers; and Dennis Willard of Vouchers Hurt Ohio.
For additional information about participating districts visit: https://vouchershurtohio.com/districts/