Facts About Vouchers

Cleveland, OH Voucher Program

  • Through 2001, the Cleveland voucher program has cost more than $28 million. When direct administrative costs are factored in, costs of the voucher program increase to $33 million. In 2001-02, the Cleveland program enrolled 4,266 voucher students and program costs were estimated to exceed $8 million, with an additional $2 million or more being spent by Cleveland public schools to provide transportation for voucher students. In total, the voucher program cost more than $10 million in 2001-02. 100% of this money came from funding intended to benefit all children in Cleveland’s public schools. The voucher program is funded through Cleveland’s portion of the state’s Disadvantaged Student Impact Aid (DPIA) program, thereby decreasing funds available for Cleveland programs for disadvantaged public school students.20
  • The state of Ohio has spent more tax money per student on the students in the voucher program than it has for the other nearly 90% of Ohio’s school children in public schools.21 Since 1991, the state has appropriated more money for its private schools ($1.1 billion) than it did to refurbish its public schools ($1 billion).22 $140 million in the 1998-99 school year alone went to private schools for textbooks, reading and math specialists, science equipment, and more.23 This is in addition to already providing all of Ohio’s private schools with about $600 per student in cash, supplies and services from state taxpayers and local schools.24 In contrast, underfunded Ohio public schools have been found to have among the worst facilities and technology in the nation.25 Until recently, federal officials ranked the conditions of school facilities in Ohio dead last among 50 states. As the 2000-01 school year began, a spokesman for the Ohio School Boards Association called the state’s public school infrastructure “a huge, huge problem.”26
  • Additionally, Ohio relies heavily on local property taxes to fund state education. Consequently, affluent, predominantly suburban districts have much greater means to fund their public schools than do poor inner city and rural districts. A recent Education Week analysis ranked Ohio 44th out of 50 states in ensuring equitable funding. Three times in the past decade, the Ohio Supreme Court has ruled the state’s school funding formula unconstitutional and has raised concerns about the method used to calculate the cost of an adequate education. In the most recent decision on September 6, 2001, the justices said they were prepared to uphold the constitutionality of the funding system if the legislature agreed to substantially raise expenditures on K-12 education. However, Senate President Richard Finan (R-Evendale) has stated that he would not support either a tax increase or budget cuts to meet the court order. Said a defiant Finan: “I say let the court figure it out.”27
  • As in Milwaukee, money is subtracted from public school funds in Cleveland to pay for voucher students who were not attending public school. In the program’s first year, $1.6 million—almost 25% of the Ohio taxpayer cost for vouchers—went toward the tuition of students who were already enrolled in private schools. In the 1999-00 school year, less than one-third of the voucher students came from public schools the year before.28 Similarly, a recent study conducted by the Cleveland-based research institute Policy Matters Ohio, determined that one in three students participating in the voucher program in 1999-00 was already enrolled in a private school prior to receiving a voucher.29
  • In its second year, the voucher program exceeded its budget by 41%. This shortfall was covered with funds earmarked for public schools.30 At the same time, several public schools had to borrow against future revenues to keep their doors open.31
  • As in Milwaukee, Cleveland public schools are not saving money due to the reduction of students. A study conducted by the consulting company KPMG LLP found that the district’s operational costs continued to increase even though the number of students was reduced by the voucher program. The report found that voucher students were drawn from throughout the large district making student reductions at the school negligible, so that it “is not able to reduce administrative costs or eliminate a teaching position….[Instead, the district] is losing the DPIA without a change in their overall operating costs.”32
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