EdChoice Voucher Impact

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Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District

EdChoice Voucher Impact

House Bill 197

On March 25, 2020, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 197, which in addition to relief efforts related to the COVID-19 outbreak, contains new laws surrounding the EdChoice voucher program in response to the April 1 deadline. For the CH-UH City School District, these changes do far more harm than good.

”We respect the legislature’s need to act quickly in light of the COVID-19 crisis, and we are thankful that our lawmakers are working to provide relief for Ohioans. However, the voucher-related legislation in HB 197 continues the devastating expansion of EdChoice that occurred this summer in the biennial budget,” said CH-UH Board of Education President Jodi Sourini.
 

What Is EdChoice?

The Ohio EdChoice Scholarship Program allows students living in the boundaries of designated schools to receive vouchers to attend private schools. It started as a way to provide education options for students whose local schools were considered "failing" by the Ohio State Report Card grading system.

However, the program has expanded to the point of unsustainability for CH-UH City Schools. The vast majority (more than 93%) of EdChoice students within the CH-UH City School District boundaries have never attended our public schools. This means that they were never factored into our budget to begin with. Furthermore, we lose $6,000 per new high school student and $4,650 per new elementary school student using EdChoice due to a freeze in state funding for the next two years. This has amounted to an approximate loss of $7.2 million this fiscal year.
 
“Cleveland Heights isn’t losing any students. They are just losing money.” -Economist and school finance consultant Howard Fleeter, IndeOnline, December 2019
 
It's also wrong to call many of the buildings on the EdChoice list "underperforming." Ohio currently has buildings that are considered high performing (overall grade of A, B or C) on the list of buildings whose students qualify for EdChoice vouchers due to inconsistencies in the report card grading system.1
 
Overnight Changes
When the Ohio General Assembly passed its biennial budget in July 2019, it froze receipts at 2018-2019 levels. This means that for every new voucher used, none of the cost would be offset by state aid. They also quietly and suddenly removed the provision that required high school students to attend a public school prior to using the voucher. Unable to prepare financially for the change, the District was forced the following month to negotiate one-year contracts with the teachers union, as opposed to multi-year contracts.

Source: 
1Ohio School Boards Association
 
 

Impact on Issue 26

On March 17, 2020, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District will ask the community for a new, additional tax levy of 7.9 mills, equating to approximately $8.8 million annually. This millage is due largely to the rapid, unsustainable expansion of EdChoice. If it were not for the way EdChoice was funded, the District would not be on the ballot until 2023, and the millage would be less.

Calculating the Cost of Issue 26
The language on the March 17 ballot reads as follows for Issue 26, the CH-UH operating levy:
"CLEVE HTS/UNIV HTS CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT
Proposed Tax Levy (Additional)
An additional tax for the benefit of the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District for the purpose of current expenses at a rate not exceeding 7.9 mills for each one dollar of valuation, which amounts to 79 cents for each one hundred dollars of valuation, for a continuing period of time, commencing in 2020, first due in calendar year 2021."

In order to calculate the cost to a homeowner, it must be noted that the valuation a levy is paid on is not the market value, but rather the assessed or taxable value, which is 35% of market value.

As an example, if the market value of a home is $100,000, the assessed/taxable value is $35,000. Per the ballot language, one would divide the $35,000 by $100 and multiply that result by 79 cents. This equals approximately $23 per month.
 
What happens if it doesn't pass? 
If the District does not pass a levy in 2020, we will face approximately $5 million in cuts, equivalent to 67 staff positions. While it's impossible to say at this moment exactly what those cuts will be, it's safe to assume that a broad range of programming is at risk of being affected - extracurricular activities, class sizes, AP class options, athletics, and more.

A Call to Action

Our school board has been working with legislators and lobbyists in Columbus to initiate change, but it is crucial that lawmakers and the governor’s office hear from you today. One simple, short term solution we encourage you to ask: 

Stop deducting voucher payments from school district funds. Instead fund new vouchers from state funds directly.

Click here for a list of further points that can be used to explain how EdChoice vouchers are affecting CH-UH and other Ohio districts.
 
EdChoice is a complex topic that’s subject to much debate, but what it comes down to is this: We need your voice in finding a fair solution that is best for students. Please take a few moments to contact the following elected officials:

Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) Chair, Senate Education Committee

(614) 466-4538 | Email Senator Lehner


Senator Matt Huffman (R-Lima) Vice Chair, Senate Education Committee

(614) 466-7584 | Email Senator Huffman

 

Senator Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) Ranking Minority Member, Senate Education Committee

(614) 466-5204 | Email Senator Fedor

 

Senator Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights)

(614) 466-4583 | Email Senator Yuko

 

Senator Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) 

(614) 466-4857 | Email Senator Williams

 

Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights)

Phone (614) 644-5079 | Email Representative Boyd

 

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder

Phone (614) 466-2500 | Email Representative Householder

 

Governor Mike DeWine

(614) 644-4357 | Email Governor DeWine
 

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