School choice programs gain ground

COLUMBUS, Ohio — School choice programs are gaining ground in at least three states and in the nation’s capital, according to media reports. As reported earlier in Michigan Education Digest, the U.S. House of Representatives recently reauthorized the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a tuition tax credit program in Arizona.

Elsewhere, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has proposed quadrupling the number of school vouchers available in that state, the Toledo Blade reported. The statewide Ohio EdChoice scholarship program would grow from approximately 14,000 vouchers offered to 60,000 vouchers by 2013 under the plan, according to the Blade.

The Ohio Legislature is considering a bill that would fund the expansion by redirecting 80 percent of the $5,700-per-pupil allocated to public schools to the private, parochial or religious school of the student’s choice.

In Indiana, a state senate committee is considering legislation to provide up to 7,500 vouchers to families who want to send their children to private schools, according to The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. If adopted, the plan would be one of the most expansive in the country in terms of eligibility, according to the Journal Gazette, because it would not be limited to children in failing schools, those in low-income families, or those with special needs, as are many voucher and tax credit programs.

Under the Indiana bill, children would have to attend at least two semesters in public school, not including kindergarten, before being eligible for a voucher, the Journal Gazette reported. Voucher supporters said that provision should be removed, but at least one legislator said public schools should have first opportunity at enrolling students, according to the Journal Gazette.

Toledo Blade, “Ohioans rally to cheer Kasich’s voucher plan,” March 23, 2011

The (Fort Wayne, Ind.) Journal Gazette, “Senate panel introduced to vouchers,” April 7, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “D.C. Scholarship Program Approved by House,” March 31, 2011

Michigan Education Digest, “Arizona moves to increase tuition tax credits,” April 7, 2011