To the editor:

There is consensus among state officials that the EdChoice voucher debacle needs fixed, but no consensus on how to fix it.

The Cleveland voucher program, created more than a quarter century ago, seemed harmless to most school officials. With the passage of time, additional voucher programs have been enacted. This year, the amount of $ is being deducted from school districts for vouchers. Even so, many public school districts have not felt serious financial harm.

However, the advent of the infamous EdChoice voucher expansion, secretly inserted in HB 166, because of its widespread impact, has gotten the attention of most school district officials.

Pressure from local constituents to fix the HB 166 voucher expansion is causing state officials to scramble to reduce the impact before February 1 when the voucher application process begins. Most state officials seem to be eyeing a “short-term fix” to relieve the pressure.

Although the recent voucher expansion measure has gotten the attention of school district officials and legislators, there seems to be no path forward that is favorable to school districts in the long run.

Some state officials want eligibility for vouchers to be income-based. Others want eligibility to be based on whether or not a school district or building is failing to meet existing arbitrary and capricious standards. Some just want to exclude high wealth districts from voucher eligibility. There seems to be no consensus emerging as to the way to “fix” the problem.

Unless the protest of voucher expansion becomes an ongoing priority of traditional school district advocates, a universal voucher strategy will eventually be enacted into Ohio law. The rhetoric that vouchers are needed for poor kids to escape “failing” districts is just so much poppycock. Voucher advocates want all students to be eligible for vouchers.

William L. Phillis
Ohio Coalition for Equity & Adequacy of School Funding