Cleveland Voucher Program Abandons School 'Choice' For Disadvantaged Students

Despite claims that the Cleveland voucher program provides a choice between religious and nonsectarian private schools, nearly 100 percent of Cleveland voucher students attend private religious schools, a new report shows. The data, released by Policy Matters Ohio shows only .6 percent or 25 out of 4200 of the students attend public schools.
This new data goes right to the heart of the Cleveland voucher case, Simmons-Harris v. Zelman, that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear. The high court will review a decision by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision finding that the Cleveland school voucher program is unconstitutional because it violates church-state separation. Voucher opponents believe that parents’ choices are limited largely to religious schools, and Ohio taxpayers, in effect, are subsidizing religion.

Students attending religious schools in Cleveland cannot opt out of religious worship or activities. Considering that only three secular private schools are currently participating in the Cleveland voucher program, the only real choice for the 4200 voucher students is the public school system or private, religious schools. This hardly meets a standard of true choice for Cleveland’s families.

Information about the program, including details on its impact on religious liberty, can be found in a report released by People For the American Way Foundation, Five Years and Counting: A Closer Look at the Cleveland Voucher Program. The report cites the empty promises of the Cleveland voucher program, showing how the program fails to benefit poor students.

The report also includes information about: millions of dollars in vouchers that have gone to families with incomes above the poverty line; the actual cost of vouchers not included the reported cost of the program; the disabled and special needs students who are left out of the program; mismanagement, financial corruption and poor planning that have plagued the voucher program; and a state-commissioned evaluation that shows that Cleveland’s public schools students made greater gains during the study than voucher students achieved.

Read PFAWF's report on the Cleveland voucher program

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