BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – School superintendents across Ohio are upset with the state legislature. Next year, more schools will be required to provide EdChoice Scholarships — or vouchers — to parents who want to send their children to private schools.
This year, Youngstown, Campbell, Austintown Intermediate School, Warren and East Liverpool are in the program.
Next school year, 18 local districts will be affected. Parents with students at these schools can get up to $4,650 for K-8 students and $6,000 for high school students.
One of the hardest-hit schools could ultimately be Boardman.
“Honestly, it was like a punch in the stomach,” said Boardman Superintendent Tim Saxton.
Students attending Center Intermediate School and the high school will be eligible for vouchers to attend private school next year.
“It’s always been the lowest 10% or the schools that are academic distress, which Boardman isn’t even close to either one of those categories,” Saxton said. “That, to us, was a complete surprise.”
“I was very surprised by the schools on that list,” said Mike Pecchia, president of Valley Christian School.
His school system will be one of the options for Boardman parents who choose to use the voucher.
Ninety percent of Valley Christian students, most of them from Youngstown, are already part of EdChoice.
“Tuition is the biggest obstacle,” Pecchia said. “Now, that obstacle’s taken away and they can apply for a scholarship. I think there may be a few.”
Mary Fiala, the superintendent of schools for the Youngstown Catholic Diocese, is very aware of the changes made to the EdChoice Scholarship. She’s in the process of putting together information for her prospective schools.
Fiala also supports the changes, saying it’s the chance for parents to have a better opportunity to decide how their tax dollars will be spent.
Like most school districts in Ohio, Boardman ended up in EdChoice through the “value added” criteria of the state report card, which Saxton called complicated and misunderstood.
“It’s about how a kid’s growing year to year, how a teacher is teaching to the tests,” he said.
Saxton said they’re going to get it fixed.
“We’re going to take a look at the metric that’s causing this.”
We asked Pecchia if Valley Christian would use the expanded EdChoice program as a marketing tool.
“Don’t want to necessarily take advantage of something that’s happening but we’ll talk about it because it’s a market for us, there’s no question.”
Saxton doesn’t know what it’ll cost Boardman Schools — he’s working on that number.
He did say students from PreK to eighth grades must spend one year in the public school system to be eligible for the voucher but that’s not the case for high school.
In fact, a student in the Boardman School District already enrolled at Cardinal Mooney or Ursuline can apply for the scholarship next year.
Once a student is on the scholarship, it can be renewed each year through grade 12 as long as the student meets the renewal criteria. However, if the building comes off of the designated list, no new students who would be assigned to the building are eligible.