Ohio Voucher Program to be Challenged in Court

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Ohio Voucher Program to Be Challenged in Court

A coalition of 75 Ohio public school districts plans to file suit with the state to challenge the EdChoice school voucher program, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The lawsuit is headed by the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, which successfully sued the state over an unconstitutional school funding system in 1997.

Bill Phillis, the Coalition’s executive director, told The Ohio Capital Journal that the state’s voucher programs violates the legislature’s constitutional responsibility to provide “for a thorough and efficient system of common schools throughout the state.”

In June, Governor Mike DeWine signed a budget that increased the value of the vouchers that students can receive: K-8 students can now receive $5,000 and high school students $7,500, an increase of $350 and $1,500, respectively. The budget was celebrated by The Wall Street Journal editorial board in July as evidence of school choice’s rising momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Phillis, the continuance and expansion of the voucher program in the latest budget makes Ohio’s education system unconstitutional and inaccessible, necessitating a lawsuit, The Ohio Capital Journal reported.

Stephen Dyer, the director of government relations, communications, and marketing at the Ohio Education Association, told The Ohio Capital Journal that the case should be of particular interest to courts because of its potential to address “de facto” racial segregation issues that could come up. Data collected by the OEA found that one Catholic school district, Lima Central Catholic, received over $686,000 in EdChoice vouchers from transfer students while data from the Ohio Department of Education show that the school is 71% white. Similarly, St. Charles Catholic school received more than $653,000 in vouchers, while 82% of its student body is white.

The lawsuit is expected to be filed in the next few weeks, and comes as the legislature debates a bill to create a universal school voucher program, the Dispatch reported. If it passes, Ohio would be the second state in the country to have a universal school vouchers program, following in the path of West Virginia, whose new voucher program passed in March and covers all students, according to The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

- Andrew Thomas

Published Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021