EP school board objects to EdChoice voucher program

EAST PALESTINE — As numerous public schools around the state have continued to object the EdChoice Voucher Program, East Palestine joined, as the school board approved a resolution to oppose the program.

Although East Palestine is not one of the schools that would be affected by the program, Neifer said that opposing the program is their way to show support to other public schools in the state.

The program uses the report card results based on six components, as well as an overall grade. The state takes the results to determine whether a school is “failing”. The state uses the last three years of report card data to determine which schools are underperforming.

Neifer said that for three years Ohio schools were given a “safe harbor” in order to have time to get used to the adjustment of testing requirements. This means that the data is determined from the 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2013-14 school years, skipping the three “safe harbor” years.

So, if a school has improved during the “safe harbor” period, those improvements were not used to determine whether the school was eligible.

“The system changed during those three years and now they are going back to use data prior to that, under a new system to penalize schools,” Neifer said. “It’s just wrong.”

Parents who have kids in schools that qualify for the EdChoice scholarship program receive a scholarship to use for private school tuition.

For the 2020-21 school year, legislation in the budget bill has expanded this program to include many more public schools than ever. Previously, 120 schools qualified for participation in the program, but now over 1,200 Ohio public schools in over 400 districts will be qualified.

Neifer said that one of the biggest problems with the voucher program is that the new language in House Bill 166 changed the rules so that high school students no longer have to have been enrolled in their public school district to qualify for a $6,000 voucher.

“A student could have never come to our high school, go to a private school and take a $6,000 voucher that would come from us,” Neifer said.

“We wouldn’t receive any state aid for the kid because they never came here, and we’d still have to pay $6,000 for that kid to go to another school. This could potentially cost some school districts millions of dollars next year.”

Because of its numbers and projections moving forward, Neifer said that East Palestine is not in danger of qualifying for the voucher. He believes that action will be taken against the program, as public schools all around Ohio have joined together to oppose it.

“We’re doing everything we can to support other school districts because it’s what’s best for public education, which is our business,” Neifer said. “I anticipate during the month of February that we see some change to this legislation, but we’ve got to continue to support and push in order to make those changes happen.”

In other business, board members Brian Moore, Rube Ginder, Ron Novak, Doug Lammert and Jennifer Andre and former board member Sue Weigle were recognized during the meeting as January is the month of recognition for school board members.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 3.



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