In 2005, Ohio launched a new voucher program to “save poor kids from failing schools.” The voucher program served 3,000 students and cost $5 million.

Now the state’s voucher program serves 69,000 students and costs Ohio taxpayers $628 million annually. Voucher advocates want more.

The legislature continually rewrote the rules for eligibility to expand the number of students who can get a voucher.

At first, only students assigned to schools in “academic emergency” – the state’s lowest rating – for three consecutive years could apply for a voucher.

A year later it became schools in either academic emergency or academic watch for three years. Six months after that, the requirement dropped to two of the last three years.

In 2013, lawmakers created an income-based scholarship for all kids regardless of their home district. Then, they removed the requirement that kindergartners be enrolled in their local public school first and later expanded it all the way up to high school students.

Today, roughly half of Ohio’s families are eligible for an income-based voucher because the limit for a family of four $65,500 of annual household income.

Not many children are being “saved.” Most voucher schools perform worse than the public schools that the students left.

Most kids who use EdChoice scholarships perform worse on state standardized tests than their public school peers, a 2020 investigation by the Cincinnati Enquirer found. null

In 88% of Ohio cities where vouchers are used, the data showed better test results for the public schools. And when it came to Ohio’s eight largest cities, five of the districts (Akron, Canton, Cleveland, Toledo and Cincinnati) reported higher proficiency levels.

Akron City Schools had the biggest difference, scoring nearly 8 percentage points higher than the private schools in its area.

Public school advocates say that’s because many of the schools on the voucher list aren’t failing. The criteria for getting on the list is wrong, not the schools.

The goal of voucher advocates is not to “save poor children from failing schools,” but to transfer public funds for parents to use at private and religious schools, even though their public schools are better.