Voucher Expansion Update
HB 166 expanded the EdChoice Scholarship program in multiple ways. The bill requires ODE to increase the cap on the number of EdChoice vouchers available (increase the cap by 5 percent each time 90 percent of available vouchers are claimed) this increase applies to the original EdChoice program where students are eligible based on so-called ‘failing schools.' This program is funded through deductions from school district state payments.
Generally, students wishing to claim a voucher under the original EdChoice voucher program must have attended a public school in the previous school year. However, HB 166 codifies in law the current practice where students going into grades 9 through 12 need not first attend a public school. In other words, high school students already attending a private school can obtain a voucher.
The income-based EdChoice voucher program is expanded in HB 166 to include all grade levels (rather than phasing in grade levels year by year). In FY 2019, students in grades K through 5 were eligible. Students need not first attend a public school to be eligible for this voucher; the qualifier for the income-based voucher is families at or below 200 percent of poverty. The voucher amount is prorated according to income. This program is funded directly by the state and not deducted from school districts’ payments.
Unrelated to the voucher expansion enacted through HB 166 is a phenomenon many districts may be experiencing ~ an increase in the number of buildings that are deemed a ‘failing school’ and therefore its students eligible for the original EdChoice voucher program (deducted from the district’s payments). Because of the previous safe harbor provisions, it had been several years since ODE was required to update the list of ‘failing schools’ and since then, the updated list has grown. Districts should be aware because of the possible increase in voucher deductions with the latest update of eligible buildings.
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