Through a resolution approval, the West Geauga Local Board of Education voted to formally oppose the EdChoice Scholarship Program last week.
All attending board members voted in favor of the resolution during the Jan. 21 meeting. Board members Ben Kotowski and Dan Thoreson were not present.
“What is happening with the state of Ohio is that more and more of the public [education] dollars are being funded into private institutions,” Superintendent Richard Markwardt said. “The voucher program in the course of two years has expanded by about 300 percent.”
The scholarship gives students in eligible school districts the opportunity to attend private schools through a voucher program, for which public school district would pay annually. Originally, only about 300 school buildings were eligible for vouchers. After the expansion, however, more than 1,200 buildings are eligible.
“The high school voucher is $6,000 per student, per year. The elementary voucher is $4,650 per student, per year,” Dr. Markwardt said. “Once the student attains that voucher from the state, they never lose it.” He said it could cost the district more than $65,000 to have a student enrolled in a private school from elementary through high school.
“I think it’s important for us to pass this resolution to show as a philosophical opposition to what it is the state is doing,” he added, “and that is the transfer of public funds to private schools.”
Currently, West G is not an EdChoice eligible district, Dr. Markwardt clarified, noting that this is something that could still negatively impact the school as the program expands or the district’s performance changes.
Dr. Markwardt noted that public schools accept all students in the district, whereas private schools have the “luxury” of refusing students based on academic performance and do not have to adhere to the same standards of performance measurements as public schools that affect their rating.
“There is really no demonstrable way to say that the private schools are doing a better job than public schools because they’re not being held to the same standard,” he said. “And yet, they’re taking public school funding.”
In other news, Dr. Markwardt updated the board on the stakeholder committees created as a result of the board’s approval of the elementary school reconfiguration. He explained that three committees were created for operations, transitions and curriculum and each meet once a week.
The transitions committee, he said, involves parents most heavily and includes parents from Westwood, Lindsey and Newbury elementary schools. He said this committee will look at the progress of the changes and how traditions and activities will alter and is co-chaired by him and Director of Public Relations Jim Kish.
The operations committee also includes parents and is co-chaired by Dr. Markwardt and Director of Technology and Operations Sean Whelan. Dr. Markwardt said this committee will focus on “everything you would expect operations to deal with,” including start and end times of transportation, building renovations and construction timelines.
The curriculum committee, co-chaired by Dr. Markwardt and Assistant Superintendent and Director of Curriculum Nancy Benincasa, will focus on what programs are offered to students and delivery models utilized for instruction.