'Vouchers Hurt Ohio' lawsuit is topic of Feb. 23 forum

Vouchers Hurt Ohio is a coalition of 100 Ohio school districts that filed suit on Jan. 4, 2022, challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s two EdChoice voucher programs. Vouchers give families state funds to pay for private school tuition.

The lawsuit claims the growth of vouchers has hastened segregation, and depleted the pool of public funds available to finance a high-quality public education as required by the Ohio Constitution. It challenges the legality of the state operating two systems of education. Five school districts are named as lead plaintiffs: Cleveland Heights-University Heights, Richmond Heights, Columbus, Barberton, and Lima.

The public is invited to an online forum on Feb. 23, at 7 p.m., to learn more about the litigation.

School board members from plaintiff districts will discuss the impact of private education (EdChoice) vouchers on public school funding, their motivation for filing suit, the substance of their claims, the desired relief, and next steps for concerned citizens.

William Phillis, director of the Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding, another plaintiff in the case, will also speak.

The Ohio Constitution makes funding a system of public schools one of the state government’s primary responsibilities. The suit charges that the state is failing to fulfill this responsibility, in part by diverting public funds to private schools.

Vouchers began in Ohio with the Cleveland Scholarship Program in 1995. The legislature has since added four more voucher options that expand who can use public funds to pay for their private school education. The legislature has consistently loosened restrictions on voucher use and increased the payment amounts. Ohio Department of Education data shows that in 2020 more than $394 million of state funds was spent on the five programs that paid for more than 59,000 vouchers that year, without providing for adequate public school funding as mandated by an earlier lawsuit.    

The forum is hosted by the Heights Coalition for Public Education, the CH-UH and Richmond Heights boards of education, Reaching Heights, Ohio PTA and the CH-UH Council of PTAs, League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland and its CH-UH chapter, Public Education Partners, Ohio Public School Advocacy Network, and Northeast Ohio Friends of Public Education.

Registration for the forum is required. Visit the Heights Coalition for Public Education website, https://chuh.net/coalition/lawsuit/, to register, and to find additional information about the lawsuit as well as a complete list of sponsors.

Susie Kaeser

Susie Kaeser is a member of the steering committee of the Heights Coalition for Public Education. 

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Volume 15, Issue 2, Posted 10:25 AM, 02.01.2022