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YOUNGSTOWN School official: Only Cleveland has vouchers



Published: Fri, July 5, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



School officials don't know when, or if, school vouchers will be available here.

By RON COLE

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The telephone in Carolyn Funk's office has been particularly busy since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a week ago that school vouchers are constitutional.

Funk, treasurer of the city public schools, says she has received numerous calls from parents asking where they can get vouchers so they can send their children to private schools in the fall.

The answer? Nowhere.

"The voucher program does not yet exist in the Youngstown school system or any other school system in Ohio other than Cleveland," Funk said.

"We're getting enough phone calls that we need to put the issue to rest."

In Cleveland

By a 5-4 margin, the court ruled that a 6-year-old program in Cleveland that provides tax dollars to parents to send their children to private, religious schools meets constitutional muster.

About 4,000 of Cleveland's 57,000 elementary-age pupils get $2,250 to help pay tuition at any of 51 participating schools, all but nine of which are religious. Most are Catholic.

Cleveland, Milwaukee and Florida are the only tax-supported voucher programs in the nation.

The ruling was expected to spark renewed efforts to expand the programs to other states and communities, including possibly Youngstown, and President Bush made a stop in Cleveland this week to celebrate the decision.

But just because the court ruled vouchers constitutional does not mean they'll ever be available in Youngstown, Funk said.

Expanding the voucher program beyond Cleveland would take an act of the Ohio General Assembly. "And it would be heavily fought," Funk said.

Even Gov. Bob Taft, who hailed the court's decision, has struck a cautious tone, saying the state should continue to evaluate the academic effectiveness of the Cleveland program before considering expansion.




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