Report: School Voucher Trends Go Against Original Intent

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - As the U.S. Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the Cleveland voucher program, a newspaper's analysis found that the program may be falling short of its school-choice goal.

When the first vouchers were awarded about six years ago, state leaders said it would allow poor families the same option as wealthier families to choose between Cleveland's city schools and a private school.

The Akron Beacon Journal reported Tuesday the average income of families receiving vouchers was less than $10,000 six years ago.

This year, only 31 percent of voucher recipients come from families with income below the poverty line; 28 percent of the families earn twice the poverty rate.

The newspaper's analysis of Ohio Department of Education data found that in the sixth year of the program, enrollment in Cleveland's private voucher schools is down 2,170 from the beginning of the program, while other school enrollment is up, when considering public and charter schools.

The decline occurred even though the private schools enroll 4,457 children with vouchers and the state is paying up to 85 percent of tuition.

Gov. Bob Taft's spokeswoman, Mary Anne Sharkey, said the governor continues to support the program.

"This is still in the experimental stage," Sharkey said. "We're still waiting to see how it works. It has given Cleveland families options."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)