(The Center Square) – School choice options in Ohio could expand to nearly every student if a new bill works its way quickly through the Ohio Legislature during the lame duck session.
Senate Bill 368, introduced by Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Rome, earlier this week, would eliminate income thresholds currently attached to the state’s school voucher program and significantly expand tax credits to home-schoolers.
Those two changes, according to The Buckeye Institute Research Fellow Greg Lawson, would expand school choice to 85-90% of Ohio students.
“Senate Bill 368 represents exactly the type of innovative reform parents need in order to put students first and offer them a better chance to succeed,” Lawson said. “The Buckeye Institute and our coalition partners in the school choice movement have worked tirelessly to ensure that all students in Ohio have access to the tools they need to excel educationally and in life, and we could not be happier that this bill implements our longstanding policy recommendation.”
The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee, but Lawson believes hearings could come as early as next week.
O’Brien sees the legislation as giving power to parents and promoting education competition.
“The school choice movement is gaining momentum, and learning options are gaining support. The Parent Educational Freedom Act empowers our parents, encourages healthy competition, and makes Ohio an even better state to raise a family,” O’Brien said. “Every parent has the right to choose a school that best meets their student’s needs, and I look forward to this bill allowing Ohio’s parents to make those choices.”
The bill would still withhold choice options for students who have never attended public school, Lawson said, but would increase the current $250 tax credit for parents who homeschool their children to $2,000.
“Some of the higher end curriculums can be expensive,” Lawson said. “Most people wouldn’t use all of that, but we wanted to make sure it was available. We think that’s a pretty good provision. Post-COVID, a lot of families did choose to do home schooling. Being able to make sure they have the resources and to maximize the experience is a good thing, too.”
Ohio expanded the state’s current voucher system by $2,000 when Gov. Mike DeWine signed the state budget into law in July.