Over the last decade, while Ohio’s public schools drew national attention for having the most deteriorated buildings in the country and for maintaining one of the most inequitable systems of school funding, the state has been spending $600 for every private school student in the state. Meanwhile, rather than addressing the real problems and needs of the public schools, the legislature has chosen to reaffirm its support for the Cleveland voucher program, which has cost millions of dollars with no demonstrable impact on educational achievement.
When the legislature launched the voucher program, it funded the costs by depleting the very kind of aid that is specifically designed to help poor and at-risk students in the public schools. On top of that, for the last three years, the city’s schools have had to provide and pay for the transportation of voucher students from their own budget. These transportation costs, combined with a loss in Disadvantaged Pupil Impact Aid, will cost the Cleveland Municipal School District more than $10 million this school year, a cost incurred for 4,266 students who don’t even attend the public schools—and many of whom never did. Despite claims by voucher proponents, the official audit of the voucher program found that savings to the public schools when students transfer to voucher schools do not compensate for the money public schools lose in per-pupil funding.
Sold to legislators and the public as a program to benefit poor kids who were attending public schools, the voucher program has failed to fulfill this goal. The legislature has never placed an income cap on eligibility, and the courts have determined that nearly 40 percent of voucher students come from families above the poverty line—and one-third of all voucher students were already attending private schools. Moreover, there is no credible evidence demonstrating that vouchers offer an academic advantage over public schools. In fact, the most recent state-commissioned evaluation released earlier this month shows public school students making greater gains over the two years of the study than voucher students achieved. For five full years, Ohio taxpayers have funded a program that is long on promises, but short on accountability.