A bill working its way through the state legislature would establish a scholarship program that would assist students who wish to attend private schools.
House Bill 136 was introduced March 1 and has been assigned to the Ohio House of Representatives' education committee, according to Legislative Service Commission's website.
According to the bill's analysis, the bill would replace Educational Choice Scholarship Pilot Program and Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Pilot Program with an income-based scholarship program called Parental Choice and Taxpayer Savings Scholarship Program. It would provide students with scholarships to attend non-public schools.
It also would require the state treasurer to establish and maintain an education savings account for each PACT scholarship student whose scholarship amount exceeds tuition and fees and allow a student or parent to use money in the account for future education expenses.
The bill also would create a program to provide scholarships for disabled children in grades K-12 to attend alternative public or private special education programs.
Hank Elchert, superintendent of Calvert Catholic Schools, said he would like to see the bill passed. He said he thinks the bill would level the playing field, and he thinks competition is a good thing.
Elchert said his view of the bill is that it would allow taxpayers to select where they would like students to attend school, and their money would accompany their children.
He said if Catholic schools don't do a good job, they won't have students. Schools have to continue to do a good job and turn out successful students, he said.
"Who benefits? ... Our people," he said.
Representatives of Calvert Catholic Schools and St. Wendelin Catholic Schools attended a school choice rally in Columbus March 22.
"I can confidently say that our diocese had the largest turnout of the six Ohio dioceses and the rally organizers personally expressed their gratitude for our support. We literally had representation from all parts of the diocese from Vermilion to the east, Edgerton to the west, Mansfield to the southeast, Lima to the south and all points in between," Chris Knight, superintendent of the schools for the diocese, wrote in a statement on the diocese's website. "It was also gratifying to see so many of our priests in attendance along with students and staff from both elementary schools and high schools throughout the diocese."
Elchert organized the local effort. He said Calvert and St. Wendelin each were represented by about 15 students and staff members, and the groups shared a bus to travel to the rally.
He estimated the rally featured five speakers, including Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, majority floor leader and HB 136's primary sponsor.
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