Otsego joins EdChoice opposition

    TONTOGANY – The Otsego board of education voted 3-1 to support the growing opposition to the EdChoice
    At the Jan. 23 Otsego Local Schools Board of Education meeting, Mark Tolles was the lone vote in
    opposition to the same resolution that has been approved in Perrysburg, Lake, Bowling Green and Elmwood
    school districts.
    “The EdChoice scholarship program has expanded and is going to impact public schools tremendously,” said
    Superintendent Adam Koch. “It does not impact us at the moment.”
    The voucher program funnels public state aid dollars into private and parochial schools.
    Tolles said he likes the voucher system, and has supported vouchers since the 1970s.
    “And I’m going to continue that,” he said. “I think that keeps the schools honest, it keeps us looking
    out to make sure we’re doing the best job we can for our students and I just don’t feel it is
    appropriate to hold hostage students that are in districts … that aren’t going to provide the schooling
    they need.”
    He commented on an amendment in Columbus that will hold schools exempt, and if that happens, “I don’t
    think we have anything to worry about.”
    An amendment to the existing bill has passed the Ohio Senate and would freeze the EdChoice eligibility
    list, which stands at 517 buildings but would balloon to more than 1,200 on Saturday without the change.

    If a district has an overall building grade as an A, B, C or D, it is not EdChoice eligible.
    On Saturday, if nothing is done, the program will expand to include Bowling Green’s Crim Elementary,
    Lake’s middle and high school and Northwood’s middle and high school.
    With the proposed changes, the only school in Wood County that will remain is Northwood High School.
    Bowling Green’s Kenwood Elementary will stay on the list.
    Koch said it is expected that after Saturday, 426 out of 610 school districts in Ohio will have at least
    one building in EdChoice.
    “They’re labeling all of those schools as failing and under-performing as public schools,” Koch said.
    There is a place for the voucher program, said board member Gordon Digby.
    “But at this point it is affecting most of the districts and soon will be affecting almost every district
    in the state of Ohio. I think something needs to be done,” he said. “At this point it’s gotten way out
    of control and a resolution is appropriate.”
    Districts must pay out up to $4,650 for grades K-8 and $6,000 for grades 9-12 for any student who leaves
    the district using an EdChoice voucher.
    “Once you’re in the program, that money can stay with the student even if the school gets out of
    EdChoice,” Koch said.
    One student could cost about $75,000 over the course of their career, he said.
    “I think it’s going to negatively impact funding. The funding system in the state of Ohio is already
    flawed and it needs overhauled, and this is going to be one more negative impact to school funding to
    public schools,” Koch said.
    Private and parochial schools are not held to the same standards, he continued.
    “We are not impacted right now, but we could,” Koch said. “It is only a matter of time in the current
    system, we will probably fall into that.”