Wednesday, February 16, 2011

St. Rep. Huffman Unveils School Choice Legislation at Press Conference

COLUMBUS—At a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse, State Representative Matt Huffman (R-Lima) today unveiled legislation to reform and expand school choice within the state of Ohio. When enacted, this bill will extend private school options to more low- and middle-income families, as well as open eligibility to families currently attending private school who are making sacrifices to pay tuition. The legislation will eliminate the failing schools model as the determining factor when choosing voucher recipients.
“All Ohio families should have choices to decide what education gives their children the best opportunity,” Huffman said. “It is my intent to open doors to more students by combining the Cleveland and Ed Choice voucher programs. This program has no cap on the number of vouchers statewide.”
Specifically, Rep. Huffman’s legislation will designate scholarship amounts that are 80 percent of the amount of the state share of education and vary based on the income level of the family. When a student who currently attends a public school utilizes the scholarship, the difference between the full state funding amount ($5,783) and the scholarship amount (which may offer $1,157 to $3,470 per student) will render considerable savings to the state.
Huffman’s legislation will also create the Special Education Scholarship Program to provide scholarships for disabled children in grades K-12 to attend alternative public or private special education programs.
“No child should be denied access to any school choice options that best meets their learning needs,” Huffman said. “Above all, this legislation is designed to extend private school choice to more lower- and middle-income families who have either never had a choice or have been making tremendous sacrifices to make that choice.”
If the school’s annual tuition is less than the student’s maximum scholarship amount, the savings will be rolled into an Education Savings Account for the individual child, which would also encourage parents to find the best value for their child’s education. Parents may use the education savings account to pay for private school tuition and fees, school or college textbooks, or tuition and fees at an Ohio college, university or post-high school institution.
“For the first time, many Ohio school parents will have control over how their child’s education dollar is spent,” said Huffman.
Participating private schools must be chartered by the state or have a letter of approval from the state, or be in the state chartering process and post a surety bond or letter of credit. Additionally, students must take the same state assessments that are required of public school students, and the Ohio Department of Education is required to collect and report assessment data in the same manner that is required of public schools.
This legislation will soon be referred to a House committee, where it will undergo further debate and consideration.