Last updated: April 05. 2014 10:00PM - 2291 Views
By - jkrumel@limanews.com

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The Lima News

Lima City Schools system’s complaints about the voucher system are growing tiresome.

Superintendent Jill Ackerman is irritated by parents who pull their children out of private schools and enroll them into Lima City Schools for one quarter, thus allowing the student to become eligible for a voucher. The public schools end up losing part of their state funding as the vouchers will pay for a student’s tuition at a private school until he or she graduates from high school.

We’ve heard it before. It’s a legitimate complaint that gets aired every year, but one that invariably turns into a misguided attempt to kill the EdChoice (voucher) system.

It is also a complaint that has two solutions:

• Lima Schools needs to raise its performance in under-performing schools, thus it wouldn’t have to worry about vouchers.

• State lawmakers need to plug the loophole that allows students to receive a voucher after attending an under-performing school for just one quarter. Raising it to a year’s attendance would be one option.

What clearly is not an option, however, is to eliminate the voucher program altogether.

The program is a proven success. It is about what’s best for children; not what’s best for running a school system. It’s about helping parents who want what they feel is the best education for their child.

While vouchers seem to grab the bigger headlines when school superintendents complain about losing some of their funding, it is just one of the alternatives that parents have when looking for a better school.

For example, there are nearly four times more children using open enrollment to leave the Lima City School district for other public school districts than there are children leaving through vouchers. There are also twice as many children who have left the Lima City School District to attend charter schools than are leaving through vouchers.

Giving parents the opportunity to choose between public schools, private schools and charter schools is not a bad thing.

To qualify for a voucher, students must attend or live in the attendance area of a persistently under-performing public school. Students can renew their voucher each year until high school graduation. They must take the same state tests as public school students.

The voucher program provides as much as $4,250 for private elementary school tuition or $5,000 for private high school tuition. The money comes only from state funds paid to a school district. If the state is allotting $7,000 to the public school district for a high school student, the state would end up saving the $2,000 — even though the student no longer attends the school.

The low-income EdChoice vouchers pay the same amount toward tuition, but they do not require students to live near or attend low-scoring public schools. To qualify, a student’s family income must be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, or up to $46,100 a year for a family of four. Students can renew vouchers each year, even if the family’s income improves up to 400 percent of poverty, or $92,200 for a family of four. The voucher amount declines as incomes go up.

Years ago a Lima grandmother who was raising her grandchild receive a call telling her that her grandchild was receiving a voucher. From her reaction, you would have thought a scholarship to Harvard was being awarded.

The grandmother stated, “I was just getting ready to walk out the door, and now I’m walking on air.”

That speaks for the success of vouchers.

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