March 26, 2020
On Wednesday, 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.
“In that expansion, our district lost $2 million overnight when a provision was changed that required a high school student must have attended a public school first to be eligible for a voucher. In addition, this new bill increases the negative consequences of EdChoice for our district by expanding voucher eligibility to siblings of students who received them this year,” added Sourini.
“We have been working with our legislators and lobbyists for months to push for changes that would not only help our district, but others in a similar situation, and this outcome falls far short of what we’d hoped for,” said Superintendent Liz Kirby.
Although the final numbers won’t be available until the 60-day EdChoice enrollment period ends, the District anticipates losing a minimum of an additional $1 million next fiscal year due to this legislation, bringing the total estimated loss for the next fiscal year to $8.5 million. Further blurring the District’s financial picture is the Election Day delay. The District has a 7.9-mill levy on the ballot, Issue 26.
“All of these factors will force us to make major decisions under a tremendous amount of uncertainty,” said Kirby. “Staffing decisions need to be made before we know exactly how many families are going to use a voucher or if our levy has passed.”
With this legislation, Heights High School will continue to be in EdChoice status next year based on an inherently flawed report card using data that’s 7 and 8 years old. It also means funding is being deducted from a high-poverty district that serves a disproportionately high concentration of special needs students so that money can be used to pay private school tuition costs. Our data shows that 94% of the students currently using a voucher in our school district have never attended CH-UH schools. The District lost nearly $7.2 million this fiscal year alone due to EdChoice.