Letter to the Editor: Tell Lawmakers to Fix EdChoice

To the Editor:

Public education is one of our nation’s treasured and promised cornerstones. That’s why the Shaker Heights Board of Education joins public school advocates across Ohio in opposing the state’s fast-growing EdChoice voucher program, which sends public education dollars to private and religious schools.

Three Shaker schools unfairly ended up on the state’s new voucher-eligible list. Unless the law is changed, students living in the attendance zones of those schools will be eligible for a “voucher” for tuition at a participating private or religious school.

There are many disturbing aspects to the EdChoice program. First, the methodology used to determine which schools are voucher-eligible is terribly flawed. For example, two of the Shaker schools on the list garnered “B” grades on the state’s own report card. One of them, Onaway, was identified in a Cleveland State University study as one of the highest-performing elementary schools in Northeast Ohio.

Additionally, students who have never stepped foot in a public school–and perhaps never intended to–will, under the changed law, be eligible for a voucher simply because they live in the attendance zone. Finally, EdChoice allows tax dollars residents intended for their own public school system to be hijacked to subsidize private and religious institutions.

Ohio’s growing EdChoice voucher program threatens to undermine our system of public education in Ohio. Next school year, unless changes are made, more than 70% of Ohio’s districts will have an EdChoice-eligible building. The number of eligible buildings will mushroom from approximately 230 last year to more than 1,200 next year — a 422% increase. Nearly half of these buildings received overall grades of A, B or C on their current state report card.

Vouchers  threaten districts’ ability to serve their students and jeopardize the quality of those students’ educational experiences. Public school districts are held to high standards and accountability, unlike private schools that do not have to use the same state tests to assess student achievement and can determine their own enrollment and admission policies.

There has been bi-partisan outrage about EdChoice expansion. Later this month, the Ohio General Assembly is expected to consider common-sense changes that will at least address the most egregious aspects of the EdChoice program.

Please join me in writing and calling our elected representatives and demanding that they fix EdChoice now. Shaker’s children, as well as children across our state, deserve better.

Heather Weingart, President

Shaker Heights Board of Education

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