Troubled public schools where students are eligible for vouchers saw a sudden spike in enrollment as the school year wound down last week, with parents and administrators at private schools realizing thousands of the vouchers were about to go unused.
In Cincinnati, a supporter of St. Mary School in Hyde Park launched a phone blitz over Memorial Day weekend informing families that the deadline for voucher scholarships worth up to $5,000 was about to pass.
Nearby John P. Parker Elementary School, whose poor academic ranking qualifies its students for vouchers to pay for private education, saw a sudden influx of students, all less than a week before classes ended.
In Toledo, unfamiliar families also began showing up at Pickett Elementary School. Principal Keith Scott said they had no intention of staying -- many called in sick or simply didn't show -- but now they can apply for vouchers because they are on the school's rolls.
The government's reaction?
The surge was enough to send state education officials to the law books.
Under Ohio's newly expanded voucher program, tens of thousands of students at schools on academic watch or academic emergency are eligible for money to go elsewhere. The scholarships are worth $4,250 for elementary students and $5,000 for high-schoolers. But the legislation was vague on how many days a student must be enrolled at one of those schools to qualify. The deadline to enroll is Friday.
"We're telling school districts to flag students that suddenly enrolled in voucher-eligible schools as we seek legal guidance," Ohio Department of Education spokesman J.C. Benton said. "The intent of the legislation is certainly not to sign up for the last day of school in order to be eligible for the program."
The state must provide educational choice for all. Please stop the back-alley educations!
NOTE: Cross-posted to Right-Angle Blog.