Ohio commits to nearly $240 million for EdChoice voucher expansion, and more might be needed
The state will spend nearly $240 million on vouchers for Ohio families to send their children to private schools through an expansion of the EdChoice program. That expansion in the state budget extends EdChoice vouchers to anyone who wants one, including those with students who have never attended public schools.
As of Oct. 14, 81,109 applications were approved for the EdChoice program and the expansion of it – more than half of that for the expansion. Any family making up to 450% of the federal poverty level – or $135,000 for a family of four – can get an EdChoice expansion voucher for private school, with families making more money getting less.
EdChoice vouchers for students in kindergarten through eighth grade increased from $5,500 to $6,165. For high school students, vouchers went from $7,500 to $8,407.
The new Ohio Department of Education and Workforce reports that expansion will cost $239.8 million this school year. The state had budgeted $397.8 million for the EdChoice expansion this year. But there are still 45,879 applications that have come in but weren’t processed by Oct. 14, the deadline by which kids had to be enrolled in private schools to apply for the vouchers.
The number of applications that remains is more than twice the number of applications approved for EdChoice expansion vouchers last year, when 24,320 were approved.
There were a total of 151,381 applications in the state's five voucher programs, with 101,276 applications approved. The state of Ohio is expected to spend $2 billion on vouchers over the next two years.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who has backed the expansion of vouchers for years, said he's not worried.
"If you look at it in the short term and then in the long term, the short term answer is the state has plenty of money. [And] in the long run, the taxpayer saves a lot of money," Huffman said in an interview last month. "We're going to have the money to pay for it. The taxpayers are better off in the long run. I hope more people take advantage of that if they want to."
Copyright 2023 The Statehouse News Bureau.