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Monday, April 22,2013

Local districts come out against state's school voucher program

By Fred Kight

The Trimble Local School District doesn't want more state dollars spent on school vouchers. Neither does the Athens City School District nor the Federal Hocking Local School District.

Each has passed resolutions opposing expansion of the Educational Choice Scholarship Program.

The Trimble and Federal Hocking school boards acted Tuesday night, voting unanimously.

"We are simply stating our opposition to expanding school vouchers," said Trimble Treasurer Cindy Rhonemus, who proposed the resolution.

"This resolution is part of an effort to limit expansion of the voucher program," added Trimble Supt. Kim Jones. "'School Choice' sounds good in theory; however, it is very concerning if, as a result, public schools lose funding to the extent that they themselves cannot remain in operation and are therefore no longer a choice."

Trimble is one of the poorest school districts in Ohio. It's asking voters for more funds, with a levy on the ballot next month.

The Educational Choice Scholarship (EdChoice) Pilot Program was created to help students from underperforming public schools. It gives students the opportunity to attend participating private schools by providing up to 60,000 EdChoice scholarships.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's proposed budget (House Bill 59) lays out the details of his new funding plan for Ohio schools and a proposed expansion of private-school vouchers.

Kasich is trying to include any student entering kindergarten at any school whose family income is double the federal poverty level. And his proposal would add first-graders in the second year of the budget.

The resolutions passed by Trimble and Federal Hocking express opposition "to any legislation that seeks to transfer public dollars to support private education." Copies of the resolutions will be "forwarded to the governor and members of the Ohio General Assembly."

Federal Hocking Supt. George Wood said, "Why doesn't our state first figure out a fair and adequate level of funding for our public schools before trying to figure out how to take more public dollars out of the system."

Athens Supt. Carl Martin said the resolution was drafted by the Coalition of Rural and Appalachian Schools.

The Athens City School Board passed it last month, he said, "as a means to ask the legislature to not spend public funds expanding vouchers until they restore funding to public schools under HB 59."

The other Athens County school districts have, so far, taken no official position on the governor's voucher plan.

Nelsonville-York Supt. Mick McClelland said last week, "I am checking into this and may take it to (the Nelsonville-York School) Board in May."

The Alexander Local School District "is analyzing the effects of the proposed budget and the implications it will have," according to Supt. Jeff Cullum. "However, currently, we do not have a proposed resolution."


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