January 15, 2020
Sylvania Schools Families & Community,
Last week during the January 8 Board of Education meeting, our Board members unanimously voted a resolution “Opposing the State of Ohio EdChoice Scholarship Program.” Along with Boards of Education across the state, they signaled their deep concern for the Ohio Department of Education’s EdChoice program and its impact on public school districts.
Alex Clarkson, Director of Teaching & Learning, presented the Impact of EdChoice on our District to both the Board of Education and Sylvania Schools Parent Organization (SSPO) last week. There is a video of the SSPO presentation on Facebook. The live stream from January 10 provides more information along with each slide (start at 18:03).
In addition to the slides, here is more information that will give you details about the program and the impact on Sylvania Schools.
What is EdChoice?
Per the Ohio General Assembly and Ohio Department of Education, the state identifies public schools whose students are eligible to receive scholarships to attend qualifying private schools.
Why are three Sylvania elementary schools on the list?
Hill View, Stranahan, and Whiteford elementary schools are on this list. The Ohio Department of Education selects elements from the grade card to determine if a school is “underperforming.” While a ‘C” letter grade for a school means that the students are meeting expected progress and these schools are performing at a “C” and above, they each had a grade card indicator that met the criteria to be on the list. A single report card component regardless of all other components can land a school on this list.
Why am I just now hearing about this?
Parents at Hill View, Stranahan, and Whiteford received a letter from their principal when they were added to the list. You are likely hearing about it in the news and on social media more recently because in December the list of eligible schools was released. Changes to the EdChoice program for the next school year have now increased the total number of schools with the designation - over 300% increase in the number of schools in 2 years. One-third of all Ohio public schools are on the EdChoice list for the 2020-2021 school year.
Not only are there significantly more schools on the list, but the financial impact is now hitting Sylvania Schools. Students who live in the boundaries of an EdChoice school can apply for a scholarship to attend a private school. The 2019-2020 school year is the first year that students have been eligible from our district. There are 63 students using vouchers with a total cost of $276.582.50 to our district this year. The EdChoice program allows those students to continue receiving this scholarship through 12th grade. If each of these students continues with these scholarships, it will cost our district $3,655,650 for their private education.
Are EdChoice Scholarships for schools that have better test scores?
No. The EdChoice Scholarships are available for families living in the boundaries of an EdChoice school to offset the cost of private schools. Test scores are used to determine which public schools are on the EdChoice list. However, private schools do not have the testing requirements that are required of public schools. Families who choose the scholarship are not able to compare the educational achievement of our schools to private schools. However, private school students who use vouchers are required to test, and those results are available here on the Ohio Departement of Education’s website.
What is being done about this impact on our district?
There are several efforts in place to change the impact on our district. Across the state, Superintendents and Boards of Education are meeting with legislators to share the concerns about the current criteria and funding for the program. Through activism with organizations such as the Buckeye Association of School Administrators, Ohio School Boards Association, and Ohio Association of School Business Officials, we have indications that Ohio legislators are considering changes to the EdChoice eligibility criteria. The changes must be in place before the date that the application window opens or the current rules will apply. At this time, the application window opens on February 1st. If you would like to contact our representatives, here is the contact information:
Senator Theresa Gavarone, State Senator for the 2nd District: (614) 466-8060 or email through her website: https://www.ohiosenate.gov/senators/gavarone/contact
Representative Derek Merrin, OH House District 47: (614) 466-1731 or email through his website: http://www.ohiohouse.gov/derek-merrin/contact
Our concern is certainly with the financial impact this program has on our district. We provide an excellent education for our students and are troubled that the designation of any of our schools as underperforming doesn’t reflect that reality. We understand the choice for education can be personal and families take many factors into account when making this decision; however, if the EdChoice parameters remain unchanged, our district dollars will continue to support private education.