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Group files lawsuit over EdChoice delay

Posted at 9:58 PM, Feb 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-03 23:16:55-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A group supporting the EdChoice voucher program in Ohio filed a lawsuit Monday on behalf of families who use the vouchers to pay for private school.

The group, Citizens for Community Values, said families who want the vouchers will be hurt by a delay in the program.

Last week, Ohio lawmakers decided to delay the EdChoice program for two months to consider a number of different factors, including new rules for next school year that would expand significantly the number of schools considered to be “failing.”

While some public school districts hope the delay in the application start date for the program will lead to changes they believe are necessary, the people involved in the lawsuit aren’t happy about the delay.

“They were able to fix their house. They were able to stop pulling money out of their 401(k) for their kid to go to school,” a representative speaking on behalf of Citizens for Community Values said. “Their lives will be turned upside down at this point if you take it away from them.”

Since 2005, EdChoice has allowed students who would attend so-called “low-performing” public schools to take thousands of dollars of taxpayer money and apply those funds toward private school, moving them away from public schools.

In a letter to families in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District, superintendent Liz Kirby wrote in part, “While we are hopeful that a more comprehensive solution for EdChoice funding is agreed upon in the coming weeks, Issue 26 remains a necessity for our district, primarily due to the financial damage already caused by the state’s unfunded mandates in these vouchers. Watch this video to get the full picture of how the current system drains our district funds. News 5 has also published an investigative report on EdChoice, in which I express my thoughts on needed changes.”

In that story, Kirby spoke to 5 On Your Side Investigator Sarah Buduson, calling EdChoice “totally out of control” and saying that if the state wants to support private education, public school districts shouldn’t be punished.

“We are not serving those students, we are now using the funds that are to serve all of our over 5,000 students to cover the cost of the vouchers,” Kirby said.

Shaker Heights City Schools’ superintendent Dr. David Glasner also wrote a letter to the community on February 3, writing in part, “The extension will buy the legislature time to reach an agreement on how to address the many flaws in the EdChoice program.” He also wrote, “Our message to legislators now is to thank them for delaying the deadline, and to urge them to use this time to make the right changes to Ohio’s EdChoice voucher laws.”

The lawsuit will head to the Ohio Supreme Court for a decision.