Catholic Central students work in class Monday, Feb. 4, 2019. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Springfield representative wants to change system for awarding school vouchers

The Springfield state representative wants to change the way private school vouchers are handed out in Ohio.

Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, said he plans to introduce legislation that will change the way the Ed Choice program chooses students to receive taxpayer-funded vouchers for private school.

“More and more schools are being designated as underperforming and more and more people are becoming eligible for vouchers,” Koehler said. “We want to move to a needs-based system. It will grandfather in anyone in the ED Choice scholarship system right now. This needs to change, we wanted to do it before the explosion happened.”

MORE: Springfield students eligible for private school vouchers double

Previously, the Springfield News-Sun reported that the number of students throughout Ohio who are eligible to pay for private schools with taxpayer money will almost double next school year, according to Ohio Department of Education data.

The change is because of tougher state-tests have led to lower scores throughout the state — meaning more schools are designated as underperforming.

Koehler said it’s not right to give vouchers out to families who might not need it simply because they live in an area of the city.

“Failure based models basically allows anyone to get a voucher,” Koehler said. “If a doctor moves into a part of town that is eligible, he can send his kids to private school for free and that’s not what ED Choice was about.”

Koehler said vouchers should go to families who are having trouble with their school and can’t afford any other option.

Any student who attends Fulton Elementary, Kenwood Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Warder Park-Wayne Elementary, Hayward Middle School, Mann Elementary, Perrin Woods Elementary and Schaefer Middle School and Keifer Academy will be eligible for the vouchers next year.

Also, students who attend Rockway School in the Clark-Shawnee district and Triad Elementary can get a voucher.

More than 400 Springfield students are taking advantage of vouchers by attending private school on the taxpayer dime this year, according to state data. The number of Ohio public school buildings where students are eligible to leave will rise from 255 to 487, state data says.

READ: Clark County schools score mostly Cs on report card

Local private schools that are approved to accept students paying with vouchers next year are Catholic Central, Emmanuel Christian Academy, Guiding Shepherd Christian School, Nightingale Montessori Inc, Ridgewood School, Risen Christ Lutheran School and Springfield Christian.

The Springfield private schools that have the most students currently using vouchers are Catholic Central with 205 students and Emmanuel Christian Academy with 66 students.

Springfield City Schools Superintendent Bob Hill criticized the way vouchers are handed out, saying it is unfair to designate a school failing based off test scores.

“It is unfortunate that the state designates schools as under-performing based on testing and report card results that I contend are strongly linked to poverty,” he said. “As I have stated many times and I will continue to state, the bottom line is that the report card is not a true reflection of the Springfield City School District.”

Koehler said he believes Springfield City Schools provides a good education to local students, and said despite the vouchers, many families decide to keep their kids in the public system because they like their schools.

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