×

GOP bill would extend vouchers to all Ohio schoolchildren

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — All Ohio schoolchildren would be eligible for state vouchers to put toward private school tuition under a new GOP-backed bill in the state General Assembly.

The legislation was inspired partly by the coronavirus pandemic and the experience of parents who saw some schools halt in-person learning to slow the spread of COVID-19, Rep. Marilyn John, a Shelby Republican, told Gongwer News Service.

“The vision is really to provide greater choice for students and parents,” she said of the concept known as “backpack” funding because money follows children no matter what school they attend.

The legislation would dramatically expand Ohio’s voucher system, which currently targets children in underperforming schools and provides vouchers of about $4,500 for elementary and middle school children and $6,000 for high schoolers.

The two-page legislation introduced by John and Rep. Riordan McClain, a Republican from Upper Sandusky, was meant to spark discussion and so has few details for now, its sponsors said.

The proposal comes as Ohio lawmakers are considering changing how the state funds education to address disparities between poor and rich districts.

Ohio groups supporting vouchers, such as the Center for Christian Virtue, praised the proposal. But public school advocates, including the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, called it an attempt to undermine traditional public schools.

GOP Senate President Matt Huffman, a voucher supporter, questioned whether the concept would work in Ohio, which already has many options for students to attend different schools.