PERRYSBURG — Addressing mismanagement of funds in Columbus, the school board unanimously passed a resolution opposing the EdChoice Scholarship program at the meeting Tuesday.
Board member Sue Larimer said that while the district hasn’t been affected by EdChoice, it is a bad program that needs to be fixed.
“We know that we’re going to be faced with this. This is exactly what I was talking about during the levy campaign. The fact that schools like Perrysburg are being forced to go back to their constituents and to the community again and ask for more money to be able to support their schools and the calibre of schools we have in Perrysburg, that’s not really the fault of mismanagement in Perrysburg at all. That is mismanagement in Columbus,” she said.
“EdChoice is a perfect example of that. We wanted to stand behind our fellow districts in Ohio, saying not only is this expansion crazy, there is just no other term for it. It’s just insane legislation.”
Perrysburg does not currently have any schools that fall into the EdChoice category, but Superintendent Tom Hosler said that it is only a matter of time, based on the complex mathematical formula used to make the determination.
The Educational Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) Program provides students from under-performing public schools the opportunity to attend participating private schools. Students must first be accepted into the parochial or private school before applying for a scholarship. The annual EdChoice scholarship amount is $4,650 for grades K-8 and $6,000 for grades 9-12 and pays for tuition only.
Perrysburg Schools receives $1,828 per student from the state. If Perrysburg falls into EdChoice there will be either $2,822 or $4,172 per student with an EdChoice voucher going from Perrysburg Schools levy money to fund private schools, which could be for-profit or religious institutions, outside the district or outside the county.
State Report Cards come out in the fall and parents can apply for a different school the following Feb. 1.
Larimer was the primary architect of the resolution, but the board still spent more than an hour of the meeting in what Hosler called “wordsmithing.”
Other districts have been creating their own resolutions, but Perrysburg has a history of welcoming competition from the private sector and worked that into the legislation at the start.
“We as a school district welcome competition among other public as well as with charter and private schools. We respect families’ rights to make choices about educational options,” begins the resolution.
The separation of church and state was also a part of the resolution, but board members said they are not against parochial schools.
Both Larimer and Hosler worked at a private parochial schools. Larimer worked for one in Wood County, BG Christian Academy.
The board is also opposed to a lack of performance standards for the private/parochial schools.
“We work hand in hand with St. Rose. We are grateful that they have the student body they have. We think it’s a fine school. We have no problem with Toledo School of the Arts,” board member Gretchen Downs said. “We do have a lot of problem spending money on schools that are failing.”
According to Downs, there were less than 300 EdChoice schools in the 2018-19 school year and for 2020-21 there are more than 1,200 eligible state-wide.
“It’s going to happen. They had a 381% increase in schools throughout the state that are being subjected to EdChoice. EdChoice is based on the state report cards, which are bogus. They are are making a decision on a foundation of sand.”
Larimer used Anthony Wayne Schools as an example of a district that is high performing, but in EdChoice, based on the most recent version of the state school’s district report cards.
Downs listed off districts that are in the top 4% of performers that are now dealing with EdChoice.
“Everyone I talk to, I tell them to complain to your legislators. That’s why we passed the resolution, to inform the public and the legislators,” Downs said.
Hosler has already been working with legislators in Columbus on the Cupp-Patterson legislation, but board members, like Larimer, are are making calls to legislators to set up meetings.