How would Ohio ‘Backpack bill’ affect local families? Your questions answered

A recent Dayton Daily News investigation looked at the state of school vouchers in Ohio and how the potential impact of proposed changes aimed at greatly expanding school choice. One measure would pay for private school for any kid in Ohio. We got some questions after publishing and wanted to explain further school choice in the region.

What is school choice versus a school voucher?

Proponents of school choice say that everyone in the state should have an option about which school they can send their kid to, including any private school or charter school. Opponents of school choice say the state should focus instead on funding and supporting public school districts.

A school voucher is a program through the state that pays all or part of tuition for a private school. In Ohio, that program is called EdChoice. Several other states have or are considering school vouchers, including Indiana, Oklahoma and Florida.

Ohio’s current school voucher program lets kids who either live near a school building with a low rating from the state or whose family makes less than 250% of the federal poverty line, which is set at $75,000 for a family of four in 2023, take state-funded scholarships to attend private schools.

Who would qualify for an EdChoice voucher under the proposed expansion?

There are several different proposals for school voucher expansion. Two bills, one in the Ohio House and a second in the Ohio Senate, would expand school vouchers to anyone in the state. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has said he supports expansion for up to 400% of the poverty line, which is up to $120,000 for a family of four. In the Ohio budget, which passed the Ohio House this week, the legislature proposes increasing EdChoice voucher eligibility up to 450% of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, 450% of the poverty line is $135,000.

How much is the voucher worth? Enough to cover private school tuition?

For students in kindergarten through eighth grade, vouchers are worth up to $5,500. For students in high school, vouchers are worth $7,500. Most schools that take vouchers will have that cover all their tuition, especially at the elementary school level, but it depends on the school.

Are there limitations on where I can use it?

Sort of. The school has to be on an approved list with the Ohio Department of Education and accept vouchers. Not all Ohio private schools take vouchers. But generally, the religious private schools in the Dayton region take vouchers.

Can I use the voucher to homeschool?

If either of the two bills in the Ohio House or Ohio Senate pass, then yes, you could use a voucher to homeschool. Currently, homeschooling families do not qualify for a voucher.

If I take the voucher, how will my child get to school? Will there be a school bus?

Ohio law requires traditional school districts to transport all students in grades K-8 who live more than two miles from the school they attend, regardless of whether the students attend district, private or charter schools. Some schools also choose to bus students that live closer. But for students whose schools are more than 30 minutes away by bus, the district can offer payment instead.

In some cases, schools work with local school districts and have their own private busing which isn’t connected to the local school districts.

Will this allow me to send my kid to a charter school?

You can send your kid to any charter school already, provided they are accepting students. Charter schools do not cost anything to attend. However, charter schools can limit the total number of students they accept, unlike a public school that is automatically required to accept every kid who lives in their district no matter what.

Can I send my child to another public school district?

What public school you can send your kid to depends on whether that school is accepting open enrollment. Most schools in the area do not accept students through open enrollment. According to the Ohio Department of Education, schools that did accept open enrollment this school year included Mad River, Dayton Public, Trotwood-Madison and Yellow Springs. Bellbrook-Sugarcreek was open to students in adjacent districts only, as was Xenia. Schools that did not allow any open enrollment included Beavercreek, Springboro, Northmont, Centerville and Oakwood.

If you have a question about school vouchers that was not answered, please email Eileen McClory at

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