LIMA — The Lima schools Board of Education has joined a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s EdChoice voucher program, which cost the school district $2.5 million during the 2020-21 school year.
“Taxpayers are funding the private schools,” said Jill Ackerman, Lima schools superintendent. “We don’t believe that that is constitutional, and we think it hurts public education.”
The voucher program started in 2005 to give parents the option to remove their children from low-performing schools, offering publicly funded vouchers or scholarships so children could attend private school at little to no cost.
School districts that score poorly on state report cards are required to pay for part of the student’s private school tuition, which critics claim diverts funding from public schools and disproportionately affects school districts educating the poorest students.
Lawmakers have considered creating a universal voucher program that would allow all Ohio children access to private school vouchers, regardless of how the public schools in their home district are performing, and have increased reimbursement rates home schools must pay parents participating in the program.
The pending lawsuit was organized by Vouchers Hurt Ohio and the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, which hired Cleveland law firm Walter-Haverfield to explore a variety of constitution issues including diversion of tax revenue, equal protection and religious concerns, as well as Ohio’s thorough and efficient clause.
“What we’ve seen happen over the years has been that parents haven’t really had a choice” because private schools can screen students based on disciplinary and academic records, Ackerman said. “So, it was never really about choice for those kids. Taxpayer money is being used to refund and rebate the system so parents can fund a private education.”