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Ohio Governor John Kasich Signs Significant School Choice Expansion

Posted on Thursday June 30, 2011 | Ohio

Budget provisions will expand, strengthen existing programs, introduce new special needs program

Washington, D.C. (June 30, 2011) — Two of Ohio’s existing school choice offerings will be significantly expanded and the state will become the first in the country with four different school voucher programs after Gov. John Kasich today signed into law a state budget that considerably increases the number of educational options available to Buckeye State families.

The American Federation for Children—the nation’s voice for school choice—joined ally School Choice Ohio in praising state legislators and Gov. Kasich for supporting the important budget provisions, which will give thousands of Ohio children new hope for a better future.

Included in the two-year state budget is a provision that more than quadruples the size of the EdChoice Scholarship Program over the next two years, ultimately resulting in up to 60,000 students having access to private school choice by the 2012-2013 school year.

The budget also creates the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship, which will give approximately 13,000 special needs children scholarships that can be used to pay for private school tuition, to defer the costs of attending an out-of-district public school, or for other services. The program is named after a former state legislator who was a staunch advocate for special needs families.

“Legislators in Ohio have once again stood up for families that lack access to high-quality educational options, and we thank them for putting kids first,” said AFC Chairman Betsy DeVos. “They, along with Governor Kasich, have placed Ohio on an important path towards ensuring that all parents are able to give their children a shot to live out the American Dream.”

In addition to the creation of a new program and the EdChoice Program’s expansion, one of the state’s other voucher programs—the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program—will see increases in scholarship amounts. The increases, between $800 and $1,550 per student, will bring scholarships more in line with the amounts offered by the EdChoice Program, and high school students will also now be eligible to apply for the Cleveland Scholarship Program.

The EdChoice Program—which uses a failing schools model to determine which students are eligible—will also likely see a spike in the number of students who qualify, thanks to a change in the criteria used to rate school performance. Though the original period to apply for EdChoice scholarships ended in April, an additional application window will begin on July 1 to allow newly-eligible families to apply for the 2011-12 school year.

Ohio’s budget comes less than a week after the Wisconsin budget also included a significant expansion of school choice. Along with Indiana, which created the nation’s most expansive voucher program earlier this year, almost a dozen states have in 2011 enacted legislation that will create, expand, or restore school choice programs.