Lake high school

File. Lake High School.

MILLBURY — Lake Local Schools will join a lawsuit against EdChoice, which provides vouchers for students at under-performing public schools to attend private institutions.

“It’s being challenged constitutionally in a lawsuit in Ohio,” said Tim Krugh, president of the Lake board of education at the November meeting.

The resolution was approved unanimously.

Krugh said there is school choice available to public school students.

“With open enrollment, we’ve kind of created school choice in Ohio,” he said. “People can go just about anywhere they want to go now.

“All that does is shift the state money to the schools, and nobody objects to that. It’s a group of state senators that are pushing … the voucher program way beyond the pale of what you might think would be reasonable. That’s what this lawsuit it about.”

Krugh added that state mandates for public schools to follow are waived for private schools.

“But they keep wanting to funnel the … tax dollars to the private and parochial schools.”

Lake leaders have campaigned vigorously against EdChoice, going back to winter 2020 when they met with Ohio Rep. Haraz Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, and Ohio Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green.

In August, it was announced that a coalition of about 70 public school districts in Ohio plans to file a lawsuit challenging the state’s use of public money to fund private schools, saying Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program pulls money from public schools and limits the state’s ability to provide fair funding for those schools.

The lawsuit calls for the end of the EdChoice program.

Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding Executive Director Bill Phillis said the state has removed around $25 billion from K-12 public education in favor of vouchers or other private school options.

EdChoice allows students from low-performing public schools to attend private, charter or parochial schools using public tax dollars. Lawmakers expanded the program this year from $6,000 per high school student to $7,500. The cap on the number of eligible students was eliminated, and a separate fund for vouchers was created, so public schools no longer would have to pass along the money per student.

Phillis said planning for the lawsuit began about 21 months ago, before the state’s current budget was enacted in July. It expanded opportunities for parents through tuition tax credits and educational savings accounts.

The Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding began in 1991 and had a membership of 515 public school districts at one time. Current membership stands at more than 200, Phillis said.

Districts and vocational schools pay a 50-cents-per-pupil membership fee. Around 1.7 million students are in Ohio’s 611 public school districts. The average number of students per district is 2,782, and the average membership fee is around $1,400.

Krugh said Lake would pay about $2 per pupil to join.

(Some information for this story came from the Center Square.)