Ohio has four different school voucher programs. Voucher programs are publicly funded tuition subsidies for students attending private schools.
Ohio’s EdChoice program is intended to give students who attend the state’s worst performing public schools chances to attend private schools.
If a student is assigned to a public school that has been designated in “Academic Watch” or “ Academic Emergency” for two of the last three years, then that student is eligible for an EdChoice scholarship. Students who attend a charter school but would otherwise be going to one of those failing schools can also apply for the scholarship.
Students in grades K-8 are eligible for up to $4,250, and high school students can get up to $5,000, or the cost of tuition if that is lower.
The 2011 Ohio state budget expanded the voucher program from 14,000 vouchers to 30,000 for the 2011-12 school year. That number will double the following year to 60,000. In the past, the Ohio Department of Education didn’t have enough vouchers to meet demand for them.
In distributing the vouchers, first preference is given to students who are returning to the voucher program, then families that meet federal poverty guidelines, then all other students in low-performing schools. In the past, vouchers have been distributed to that third group of students through a lottery. The Ohio Department of Education expects that with the expansion of the program, lotteries won’t be needed anymore.
Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program
Cleveland is the only Ohio city not participating in the EdChoice program. That’s because Cleveland has its own voucher program – one of the oldest voucher programs in the nation.
The Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program is open to students grades K-12. Students from low-income families get preference in receiving vouchers.
Special Needs Scholarships
There are two other voucher programs for children with special needs: the Autism Scholarship program and the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship program. Unlike the EdChoice voucher program, these vouchers are available to students who currently attend private schools or are homeschooled.
The Autism Scholarship program awards parents of students with autism or some autism-spectrum disorders up to $20,000 a year to receive special education services outside of their local school district.
The Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship program awards the parents of students receiving special education services, i.e., who have an Individualized Education Program, up to $20,000 to send their children to special education programs other than the one operated by their local school district.