Group Claims Ohio School Districts Trying to Keep Qualifying Students in the Dark about Vouchers
Leaders of two Ohio school districts are allegedly misusing student privacy laws to prevent low-income families from discovering they qualify for a state-funded voucher that would allow their children to attend a high-quality private school.
Those allegations are at the heart of a new lawsuit filed by School Choice Ohio, an advocacy group that seeks to educate parents about their education options, according to Cincinnati.com.
Cincinnati Public Schools and Springfield City Schools are the two districts named in the lawsuit, which was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court on May 12.
According to School Choice Ohio leaders, the two districts have rebuffed their open records requests to get contact information for the families that qualify for a roughly $4,000-a-year private school voucher (or scholarship). They add that most school districts provide the requested contact information – which is a legal request under federal law – without any hassles.
Cincinnati school leaders justify their refusal to supply student names, addresses and phone numbers – known as “directory information” – by citing a law that allows school districts to set their own privacy policies over such information, according to Cincinnati.com.
School Choice Ohio leaders say that would be a convincing argument if the district wasn’t releasing the information to employers, businesses and colleges.
It’s not explicitly stated in the article, but it seems Springfield school leaders are making the similar shaky arguments against turning over their information.
Assuming that School Choice Ohio leaders have their facts straight, it’s pretty obvious what’s going on: Cincinnati and Springfield officials don’t want low-income families to find out about the vouchers because they might actually use them.
If a large number of Cincinnati and Springfield families transfer their children to a private school, it would drive down each district’s enrollment. That, in turn, would result in less state funding and would cramp the districts’ free-spending ways – especially in regard to salaries and benefits for school employee union members.
And if there’s anything we know about the public school establishment, it’s that they believe schools exist as much to provide jobs and benefits for adults as to educate students.
Cincinnati.com reports “the case is scheduled for mediation.” If that fails to resolve the issue, the Ohio Supreme Court will be asked to settle the controversy.
School Choice Ohio attorney David Movius believes this case could have significant ramifications.
“A favorable ruling would clarify that federal privacy law is not a tool schools can use to keep schools and families in the dark,” Movius told the news site. “It’s a legal requirement across the board. We want it to set precedent in Ohio. It could be a very important ruling.”