The North Royalton School District still faces financial uncertainty, due to the state’s EdChoice Voucher Program. The state’s biennium budget, which was adopted last year, included a change in it’s EdChoice scholarship program that has added the North Royalton District, as well as other well-to-do districts to their program.
The EdChoice Scholarship program offers scholarship to parents of students in underperforming public schools and for low income students. The scholarship must be used to attend private schools that meet requirements for program participation. The EdChoice scholarship amount is currently $4,650 for grades K-8 and $6,000 for grades 9-12. EdChoice will pay either the scholarship amount or the private school’s actual tuition amount, whichever is less. The scholarship amount covers tuition ONLY.”
As part of the budget legislation, the criteria for becoming an eligible school district changed. “Schools can be added to the EdChoice designated public school list for a variety of reasons, including complicated formulas that consider deficits in graduation rate, K-3 literacy, value-added progress scores or performance index ranking in the bottom 10% of the state,” said Gurka. “North Royalton High School was included on this list based on overall value-added report card grades in the years 2017-18 and 2018-19. We believe the criteria for EdChoice designated public schools should be based on achievement scores, not value-added. The value-added score reflected on district report cards are representing a three-year average for the district and/or building, not the progress of the single school year being reported on. If this was based on last year’s value-added score alone, we would have received an “A”, and North Royalton High School would not have been designated an EdChoice school.” The number of the eligible schools list has jumped from about 40 in the state for the 2018-19 school year to 139 this year. That number for the 2020-21 school year explodes, with the expansion of criteria of districts. The list, published by Ohio Department of Education shows over 1,200 – 70% of the districts in Ohio.
A resolution was approved by the North Royalton Board of Education at its January 13 meeting to oppose the EdChoice Program. The legislation notes that “such vouchers will be available to numerous families and students who have never attended North Royalton or any other public schools and for whom state funding has never been provided to North Royalton or any other public schools.” It goes on to say that North Royalton’s state funding will be unjustly decreased by the amount of the vouchers provided to such families and students who have not and will not attend public schools and others who transfer to private/parochial schools; and, the estimated loss of revenue to the North Royalton City School District over the next four (4) years is $3,100,000 which would devastate the District’s finances.” It concludes by saying that “this Board believes that the EdChoice voucher program as it currently exists presents serious constitutional issues regarding the separation of church and state and the funding of religious institutions with public tax dollars; and, the State of Ohio has the constitutional responsibility to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools; and the EdChoice voucher program will have exactly the opposite effect by providing funding to private/parochial schools at the expense and to the detriment of public schools and their students.”
In a letter to the community from North Royalton School Superintendent, Greg Gurka, he noted that “there has been a great deal of discussion and deliberations in both the House and Senate on how best to move forward. These discussions ranged from changing the eligibility criteria to become an EdChoice designated school to eliminating the performance-based criteria and having only an income-based criteria. In the end, no agreement could be made on what direction to take.” Legislators did agree, however, to push the start date forward, in order to discuss the measure further. On January 30, the House of Representatives amended SB 120 by adding a 60 day delay in the program start date, moving the date from February 1 to April 1. The Senate approved the amended SB 120 on January 31.
“We will continue to work with our representatives to assure that local tax dollars, which were approved by the electorate of the North Royalton City School District, are kept here in North Royalton to support public education,” said Gurka. “If you would like to write a letter, here are the contacts:
Senator Larry Obhof – 614-466-7505 (President of the Senate) –
Speaker of the House Larry Householder, (District 72)
Senator Matt Dolan (District 24)
Representative Tom Patton (District 7)
Representative Phil Robinson (District 6)”
Gurka is available for questions. Residents may call 440-582-9030 or email Gurka at
Contributing Writer