Ackerman: Vouchers ‘blatant attack’ on public schools

LIMA — Lima schools Superintendent Jill Ackerman criticized Ohio’s private school voucher program Friday saying the scholarships now subsidize private education for families who can already afford tuition.

“It’s not about helping families who couldn’t otherwise afford private education,” Ackerman said, adding: “Public school taxpayer money is picking up the tuition cost for students who are already attending private schools and for students whose parents have proven they have the means to pay.”

Friday’s press conference at South Science Technology Magnet School marked the start of Public Education Week at Lima schools.

Ackerman highlighted dozens of accomplishments at Lima schools, including the recent groundbreaking of the district’s forthcoming agriculture and outdoor occupations facility, awards for the high school’s GED program and a four-star rating in the state report card for Lima Senior’s career technical education program.

“This does not sound like a district that is failing,” she said.

“The question is if all of these remarkable things are happening in our district and we are truly providing the best education and opportunities for students, which we are, why do we keep having to stand here and do this every year?

“The answer is easy: because there are those that refuse to listen and frankly, want us to fail.”

Lima schools joined a lawsuit in 2022 arguing Ohio improperly and unequally funds private schools through the state’s voucher program, which started as a targeted scholarship for children in Cleveland.

Subsequent expansions extended vouchers to lower-income families and students who lived in districts with schools the state deemed low performing, with a similar scholarship available for children with autism.

Lawmakers adopted a universal system last summer so that all Ohio children can be eligible for at least a partial voucher to attend private school, regardless of where the child lives or how much their parents earn.

Ackerman described the expansion as the “most blatant attack on public schools” she’s witnessed in her career.

“All schools utilizing public money should be held to the same standards. … (Public schools) are held accountable for academics, staff certification, finances and more,” Ackerman said. “We encounter and meet endless mandates from both the state and federal government. Why would the same not be true for private schools using tax dollars to educate students?”

The district will hold an open house from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at Lima Senior High School, 1 Spartan Way, to showcase its programs.