Last week, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed the nation’s newest school choice program into law: a state-sponsored private school scholarship for students starting kindergarten this fall whose family income falls at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines.
The income-based scholarship joins the EdChoice (failing school), Jon Peterson (special needs), Cleveland, and Autism scholarship programs in serving families in every corner of the state.
How the program works
Ohio’s new income-based scholarship will pay $4,250 in private school tuition for up to 2,000 kindergarteners this fall. Students can be located in any school, district, town, city, or county – the only criteria is their family income (at or below 200% of federal poverty guidelines, just over Free and Reduced Price Lunch). Tens of thousands of incoming kindergarten students across the state are eligible for the scholarship.
Getting the word out
This is the first-ever voucher program in Ohio to go into effect immediately. The application window now open, and the deadline is fast approaching on July 31. To apply for the program, interested families can visit the Ohio Department of Education's Website to download the application. Families can also access the application through a button on School Choice Ohio's Website at www.scohio.org/scholarship. The application and all supporting documents must be postmarked by 4 p.m. on July 31, 2013.
For many years, parents have been clamoring for an income-based scholarship. Just because they couldn’t afford a better education, they said, didn’t mean that their kids should be stuck in an environment that wasn’t high quality or wasn’t a good fit for them. They needed to have more, not fewer, doors open to them.
So parents met with their elected representatives and senators in Columbus on advocacy days, spoke at and attended rallies in torrential downpours, sent personal letters and postcards, came to the Statehouse to testify before legislative committees, and made hundreds of phone calls. Parents shared their powerful personal stories:
- Barb: “I wish I had a choice in the education of my children. My children’s school is not the environment that I would choose for them or an environment that I feel is helping them reach their highest potential.”
- Wallisha: “Our children are our biggest investment and setting them up to succeed with a better quality of education today means that the workforce and business leaders of tomorrow will be better prepared to lead our communities, cities, state and country.”
How it happened
And it worked!
Ohio’s leaders stepped up to create a new income-based scholarship for families who know their children need another option but cannot afford to make the change.
With the Governor’s signature on the bill, years of proposals, disappointments, and persistent work all paid off. The proposal, like those in past years, received bipartisan support, including from legislators who were previously opposed to school choice.
The law says the scholarship will grow one grade level per year for the next 12 years until it is available to all students across the state whose family income meets the guidelines. In 2025, we will have a full income-based scholarship program which, along with the state’s other voucher programs, will serve an estimated 60-70% of Ohio families!
For now, this is a truly huge step forward for 2,000 kindergarten students. Thank you to Governor Kasich and all the legislators, coalition partners, parents, advocates, teachers, and school leaders who all worked together to open this door to low- and middle-income families across the state.
Parents across Ohio are already lining up to use the scholarship, which they know will be a life-changing opportunity for their children.