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Chad Aldis: Absolutely. Well said.
Jason Bedrick: Now, we had mentioned that the autism program was enacted in It took nearly a decade before they were able to enact the special needs program, the John Peterson program. What can you tell us about that? It was, the general thought there was when students are assigned to extremely low-performing schools that those students should receive an option to go to private school. It was very limited in nature. The first year it was rolled out there were very few schools, public schools, whose students were eligible for vouchers.
But it was a program that again was thought to be sort of a safety valve and an option when your traditional public school had failed you.
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Now from our perspective, that was an entirely too narrow view of school choice and what school choice should be, but this was a program that passed during the budget process and took a big lift to even get where it is and had some very strong legislative champions. John Husted, who is now the Lieutenant Governor elect, was a major important force in the adoption of the ed choice scholarship program.
Because at the time, when that was passed in , Ohio only had a program limited to Cleveland and to students with autism. This all of a sudden you found schools, or students in 20 or 30 different communities and school districts who would have eligibility for private school choice. It was the beginning I think of the broadening of eligibility, but Ohio still has a ways to go in that regard. I mean it has grown significantly. I mean a decade ago there were only about 3, students participating.
Last year you had about 22, students participating. But you said that you thought this was sort of a too narrow understanding of school choice, that we were only going to offer school choice to students who are assigned to a district school that is low performing and that are low income.slippascontmi.ml
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Why is that too narrow a definition? Eventually in they did have yet another expansion with the adoption of the Ohio Income-Based Scholarship Program. Well that program is a line-item funded in the state budget. That was part of the political deal they got it done. The last two or three years the number of applicants has exceeded the available funds. This year I think it was by about 2, students. That was the underlying sort of base assumption they had.
It was the premise they started with. That proved an incredible battle to overcome.
Stacking the Deck for the Poor: The New Politics of School Choice
The ed choice income-based expansion would not have happened without the passionate dedicated leadership of a representative at the time, now a state Senator, Matt Huffman, who fought against very tall odds to work to get the program that we currently have, the ed choice income-based expansion. It also expanded choice in that all of a sudden even, to the extent funding was available, you had ,, ,, , families eligible based upon the income thresholds in the program.
Still not where we need to be, but it was a tremendous step forward that really fought against a lot of political headwinds and I think needs to be recognized for that. Jason Bedrick: Right now, I mean you mentioned that it has the potential, at least in terms of the eligibility, to serve a very large number of students. But, as you mentioned, there are a lot of students who are on the waiting list and so it definitely has the potential to grow.
Besides formula funding it and making sure that there is access to every single child whose family wants to take advantage of the program, are there any changes that you would recommend for this program or for the other scholarship programs in Ohio? We need to expand it to more families. Cleveland students have good access. Although, it is a little limited by funding as well. There would be additional families likely to take advantage of that if more dollars were available. Then the ed choice income-based program, not only is it limited by income, but it also has the limit of only expanding one grade at a time.
A couple of other things, nuances in Ohio that are a little different than other places that I think have limited the, made it more difficult for families to use it, is currently to receive a voucher in Ohio you need to first be admitted to a private school, and then the private schools submit your paperwork sort of behind the scenes to the state, and then the state approves it. We would really love to move to a system where a family would be able to basically apply for eligibility to the state and almost receive like a voucher in hand that they could then take to any private school that would then admit them.
Increased voucher amounts, especially for high school. What that does, because high school tends to be more expensive providing education at that level, I mean many private schools have to do a lot of outside fundraising to be able to serve those students. They will many times take students to fill up available seats sort of thinking of it like an airplane, you know when the flight is leaving at a.
Then the last thing I would say how our program can be improved is how scholarship amounts are applied.
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Private schools are forced, are being required to apply all discounts and even financial aid in some cases before the full scholarship amount can be applied. I think that puts a strain on some private schools as well. Hopefully, some of these things will be corrected. We need to make sure that the program can stay vibrant and accessible to as many families as possible.
Jason Bedrick: Those are excellent points.
Victory for kids : the cleveland school voucher case
You want to make it as easy as possible for parents and also for schools to participate, and as you mentioned, the supply side response is very important. It is very important that policymakers crafting these programs get the design right. My guest today has been Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy and advocacy at the Fordham Institute. Chad, thank you very much for joining us. Jason Bedrick: Before we go, I just wanted to give a quick update about some of the exciting developments this past year in Ohio state legislature.
The budget bill included a number of expansions for Ohio school voucher programs. For example, earlier in this podcast you heard Chad mention that in order to be eligible for the low-income ed choice scholarship, you had to be in grades K—5. Additionally, the number of scholarships, which right now is about 60,, will increase each year by 5 percent if the number of applicants exceeds 90 percent of the total.
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This is what other states call an escalator or an inflator that allows the program to grow over time to meet demand. Another interesting thing that they did is they removed the requirement that schools administer standardized tests. Another thing they did is that they allowed schools to administer alternative assessments approved by the Ohio Department of Education, so for example, a nationally norm reference test, instead of only mandating the state tests.
This actually respects the autonomy of private schools while balancing it with the interest of accountability, making sure that parents have some benchmark by which to assess their children. This is really good news this past year for the state of Ohio. Thanks again for joining us for another edition of EdChoice Chats.
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