Skip to content

Ohio Students Win

This week in Ohio, “Kids won,” according to Rich Clark.

The founding director of Partnership Schools-Cleveland, Rich has devoted years to empowering students and parents in the city to have strong Catholic school choices—and the means to pay for them. So he knows a win for education funding when he sees it.

The Ohio legislature passed a state budget this week that includes an increase in the publicly funded scholarships that enable Cleveland students to attend the schools of their choice—including private and faith-based schools, like Partnership-Cleveland’s St. Thomas Aquinas and Archbishop Lyke. The new budget raises the scholarship amount from $4,650 to $5,500.

After five years of no increases to the scholarship, the new budget provides welcome support for families who choose to send their children to private schools.  Additionally, the budget pegs future increases in the scholarship amount to increases in public school spending, ensuring that the significant funding disparities between local public schools and scholarship schools will not continue to grow.

Cleveland’s public schools, for example, reported per pupil spending increased more than 15 percent between 2017 and 2021, with $21,238 budgeted for FY 2021. By contrast, Cleveland and EdChoice scholarships increased zero percent over that same time period, and students received $4,650 annually if they qualified for a full scholarship—just 21 percent of CMSD’s per student spending this year.

Integral to getting the increase passed were Ohio’s bishops, Diocese of Cleveland schools Superintendent Frank O’Linn, Rabbi Yitz Frank and the team at School Choice Ohio, and large numbers of families, who worked long hours to communicate the importance of more equal funding to Ohio’s legislators and to Governor Mike DeWine. “Frank O’Linn brought urgency around this issue for a year,” Rich shares—and like Rich, we are grateful to Dr. O’Linn and to all those who advocated for the increase.

We are also grateful to the legislators who voted to approve the budget and to Governor DeWine. Together, those who supported this budget recognize that all Ohio families only have equal school choices if scholarships are sufficient for low-income families to access high-quality education. More fundamentally, they recognize that the education of all children—in public and private schools—is a public good.

It currently costs our network over $9,000 to educate each child who attends our Cleveland schools. Over 85 percent of our Cleveland families meet the federal free and reduced lunch income criteria, so families’ ability to pay for the education they deem best for their children is limited. The increase from $4,650 to $5,500 in state funding is thus welcome—even as our families and schools will continue to rely on committed donors to cover the gap between what the scholarships cover and the actual cost of a high-quality Catholic elementary education.

The budget also reflects changes to the state’s funding of public school students, so that those in under-resourced neighborhoods like the ones we serve get a share of state funding that is more proportional to their needs. For students in Cleveland, this budget is a win-win, regardless of the kind of school their parents choose.

As Partnership Executive Director Jill Kafka explains, “Our Catholic schools work hard every day to honor the fact that each child is equal in the eyes of God. Ohio has taken an important step in funding students equally this week, and we are thrilled.”