From the President: School Choice
January 23, 2020
The state of Ohio school choice programs, EdChoice and EdChoice Expansion, are poised to expand for the 2020-2021 school year. These developments are encouraging because more families than ever before will be empowered to choose the educational track that best suits their family. There is, of course, a variety of responses in our community to these changes. As Catholics, we believe that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that parental choice in education is a fundamental right. Our belief has always been that families should choose the educational path that best fits them, regardless of their zip code or income level.
Stark County Catholic Schools want to share some facts about the EdChoice and EdChoice Expansion program, debunk some common myths, and share what each of us can do to support school choice.
- School choice is not new to Ohio. Over the last three decades, the state of Ohio has supported several educational choices such as charter schools, homeschooling, online education, vocational schools, community learning centers and open enrollment among public districts. The ability to choose a private or parochial school is just one of many education options afforded to families.
- The EdChoice program began in 2005. These scholarships were created fifteen years ago, allowing families access to scholarships if their child was assigned to a state-designated low-performing school. The list of underperforming schools continues to grow each year.
- EdChoice vs. EdChoice Expansion. EdChoice provides scholarships to families who attend or who will be assigned to schools that the state of Ohio has designated as underperforming. EdChoice Expansion provides scholarships to families who are at or below 200% of the poverty line. EdChoice Expansion opened in 2013.
- EdChoice attempts to create equal opportunity. These scholarships allow families, who may have felt previously that Catholic schooling was not accessible to them, the ability to make a choice about their child’s education.
- Families in our Catholic schools pay taxes. Catholic school families meet the same tax requirements as their neighbors. This means that their tax dollars contribute to public schools even if they don’t utilize their public school system.
- Private schools are not anti-public school. Stark County Catholic Schools will not degrade our partners in public education. We all work to offer students the best education possible. We believe that families should have the ability to select their school environment.
- Students are not required to use the scholarship. It is up to each family to pursue the application process at their selected private school and follow through on a second application process with the state of Ohio to prove that they meet the requirements of the EdChoice Scholarship program. Families are required to go through a renewal process each year, as these scholarships stay with a family through high school if they continue to meet the eligibility standards.
- School choice improves educational outcomes in private and public settings. Using random assignment, the American Federation for Children determined that choice is favorable for our education system. The majority of studies demonstrated improved test scores for school choice participants. Twenty-one studies examined the impact of school choice in public schools; twenty of those showed an improvement in public school outcomes.
- “Catholic schools are hand-picking their students.” This is a myth. Any family, from any background, any income level, and any faith, who meet our admission standards, can apply to our schools. As private schools, we are well within our right to implement an admissions policy and we apply these admission requirements equally to any student who applies.
- “Catholic schools are letting anyone in to boost their numbers.” In direct contradiction to the previous myth, we do hear both retorts. This assertion is also untrue. While families of any background are invited to apply, we cannot serve every student. We go to great lengths to ensure that we are truthful about what services we can provide and the standards to which we hold our students.
- “Catholic schools automatically admit EdChoice Scholarship students.” In truth, each year there are students that we do not admit. Just because a family is eligible for these scholarships does not mean they are automatically admitted. Every student goes through an admissions process that includes personal interviews, student records requests and reference requirements. This process is intended to ensure a good fit between the school and student.
- “There is no accountability and student achievement is not measured.” This is simply not true, as each of our schools complies with tests required of us by the state. The state of Ohio has graduation requirements which our students must meet. Our students do take proficiency exams. All of our high school students take the ACT. Our ACT scores are well above county, state, and national average each year. Further, all students that accept the EdChoice and EdChoice Expansion Scholarship must take the AIR test. We have great success with these tests.
- “This will create a mass exodus from public schools.” First, this begs the question as to why families choose to leave their public school settings and demonstrates that families deserve choice. Second, last year just 1.3% of students in Ohio utilized the school choice program (McShane, December 2019).
- “School choice creates a financial loss for public schools.” In Ohio, it costs a range of $10,000-$14,000 to educate a student yearly. That is the range a school district allocates per student. The state allows a $4,650 scholarship for a student to attend a private elementary school and a $6,000 scholarship to attend a private high school. The difference between the amount of the EdChoice scholarship and the amount allotted per student stays with the public school district. Those are funding dollars that public school districts keep for students who are not in their buildings.
- “There are no limits to the number of scholarships.” While EdChoice comes from funds allocated per student in a school district, the EdChoice Expansion program is funded by the state. Each year the state has a dollar cap, and once those funding limits are met, students can no longer apply for the need-based scholarships for that academic year.
- “School choice takes money from taxpayers.” Research disproves this claim. According to the American Federation for Children, the majority of studies found that school choice programs either save taxpayers money or were revenue-neutral.
- “These private schools do not have community oversight.” Anyone who has attended a Catholic school will find this claim absurd. The very nature of Catholic schools is to offer a close-knit family atmosphere. Our families are involved in our schools in countless ways. They are vital to our continued success as we work together to help our students grow academically, personally, and spiritually. We are accountable to our families both inside and outside of the classroom. Stark County Catholic Schools has a Governing Board that assures we fulfill our mission to the best of our ability.
- Call your local state legislator. Share your appreciation that more families can choose the school environment that best fits their needs and personal convictions.
- Write a letter to the editor to discuss why school choice is important.
- Share accurate information about school choice with others.
- Offer testimony to the positive impact Catholic schooling has had on your family.
- Encourage people you know who are eligible for EdChoice to visit a Catholic school to see the Catholic school difference.
In conclusion, we welcome any family who is interested in an education based upon faith, excellence and service to explore our schools. Each year, Stark County Catholic Schools offer $2.5 million in scholarships and tuition assistance. We are grateful for any expansion to the EdChoice and EdChoice Expansion Scholarship Programs that will allow families educational choice. We pray that choice will strengthen our Catholic schools, as well as those of our other private and public school partners.
Stark County Catholic Schools
*American Federation for Children, Research Shows Favorable Impact of Private School Choice, 2019
**McShane, Mike, No, School Choice Is Not Gutting Ohio’s Public Schools, December 9, 2019