Tecumseh, Greenon schools eligible for private school voucher program

Students at schools in two Clark County districts are now eligible for the new “EdChoice” voucher, which gives parents a voucher to send children to private schools when their public school is considered under-performing.

Next fall, students at Greenon High and Middle School, Indian Valley Intermediate, Tecumseh High and Middle School, and Donnelsville Elementary will have the choice to get a state funded voucher to attend private schools.

This was the second year of Ohio’s new system in which each school district gets an overall grade that is determined largely by how students perform on state tests in the spring. The system also combines six different categories including achievement, progress, gap closing, graduation rate, improving at-risk K-3 readers and prepared for success.

RELATED: 3 districts in Clark, Champaign move up a grade on state report cards

School buildings are placed on the EdChoice list if their students fail to meet any of the six categories for the state report cards.

Some local leaders say the report card model is flawed if it’s incentivizing students to leave their schools.

“Many of these are schools where parents are satisfied with the education their students are receiving, students are going on to be successful after graduation, and educators are working hard to meet the needs of all students despite the incessant bureaucracy,” Greenon Local Schools Superintendent Brad Silvus said. “I think if we’re serious about improving education, we should invest in the strong public education system we have, listen to the concerns of educators, students, and parents, and let local communities make the best decisions for their schools.”

Tecumseh Local Schools Superintendent said the report card system doesn’t help public schools.

“We are opposed to EdChoice. It doesn’t help public schools. What it does is if you are found to be low performing and the way in which you are found to be low performing is incorrect,” Paula Crew said. “The current report card is flawed.”

Bryan Wagoner, the Springfield Preparatory and Fitness Academy Superintendent, said students and their families should have a choice of where they go.

“Vouchers are a wonderful part of the broader fabric of school choice options for parents and families,” Wagoner said. “Parents deserve to choose the best fit for a good education for their children, whether it is a quality public charter school, private school, or traditional private school.”

Once a school becomes eligible for EdChoice, it remains on the list for three years. The school could make improvements for the next calendar year, but they would still stay on the list regardless of the next year’s performance.

“We don’t think it’s fair, it will affect the districts financially in a huge way,” Crew said. “The more funding you take away from the district, the more you are tying our hands for things we can offer our students.”

RELATED: Greenon superintendent: Slip to ‘D’ on state report card is not ‘total picture’

The state uses three years of report card data to determine under-performing schools, but if any report card component has a grade of D or F, the building becomes eligible for the program.

“The report card itself is a flawed measurement and has not set consistent benchmarks for schools for any of the years the EdChoice eligibility is based on,” Silvus said. “EdChoice was created as a way to provide an alternate education choice for districts that were chronically failing as defined by the state, and it will likely impact many districts.”

Crew also thinks the report card is flawed, saying, “unfortunately, the report card hones in on several pieces of data and that’s it. It’s a flawed system when you only look at just a little bit of the data to determine if the school is an A, B, C, D, E, or F.”

The recent release of data that showed students at many more public schools throughout the state are eligible for vouchers has led Larry Householder, the Republican leader of the Ohio House, to tell WOSU Radio in Columbus that he has concerns and changes must be made quickly. He said a short-term fix is likely coming before the application process opens on February 1.

“I think we’re going to do a short term fix for this problem. But the long term solution is really, let’s get busy and make certain that we have more accurate grade cards and our testing system is one that’s fair to all schools in this state,” House Speaker Larry Household (R-Glenford) said.

Lawmakers who had been studying report cards were to submit their findings last week.

“The state is looking at report cards right now at the legislative level because they know it’s not measuring what they’re hoping that it measures,” Crew said.

On the 2018-19 state report card, Greenon Local School District, including the high school, middle school and intermediate school, received an overall grade of “D.” The district’s overall grade was a drop from last year’s “C.”

“Our focus remains on providing the best educational opportunities we can for our students,” Silvus said. “We believe that our community sees all the exciting things we are looking forward to in our new facilities and the goals we’re working towards as a district and will continue to choose Greenon Schools.”

RELATED: Clark County charter schools receive ‘D’, ‘F’ on state report cards

The voucher amount is currently $4,650 per year for students in grades K-8 and $6,000 for high school students, but the program will financially impact the districts.

“The state provides a portion of the cost of the voucher, but districts must make up the difference, which has potential to negatively impact the district financially,” said Silvus.

“It means the payments are deducted from the school district state aid,” Crew said. “Imagine $6,000 at 10 students, that’s a teacher, that’s a possible position.”

Tecumseh Local Schools received an overall grade of “C,” which was a rise from last year’s “D,” but the high school, middle school and elementary school received an overall grade of “D.”

“We do have systems in place to alleviate being on that list,” said Crew. “We actually secured a grant, a school quality improvement grant offered by the Ohio Department of Education for low performing buildings, and what we are able to do with that grant is over the next five years we are partnering with a research based business and are working to put systems in place at the classroom level that will help students.”

The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering schools in Clark and Champaign counties and has provided continued coverage of state report card grades and programs.


6 Number of schools in Clark County eligible for EdChoice

2,305 Total number of students at Tecumseh High School, Middle School and Donnelsville Elementary

1,322 Total number of students at Greenon Junior/Senior High Schools and Indian Valley Intermediate

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