Local parents sing praises of EdChoice scholarships


By Denise Dick

denise_dick@vindy.com

Youngstown

Through the EdChoice scholarship program, Cindi Hilson is able to send her three children to Youngstown Christian School.

“Without [the EdChoice scholarship], even though my husband works, we wouldn’t be able to afford to send all three of them,” she said. “Maybe one of them could come here.”

EdChoice allows children whose residential school is considered low-performing to attend a private school using a voucher. The Hilson family lives within the city school district.

Before coming to Youngstown Christian last year, the children attended Hubbard schools through open enrollment and a charter school.

She and her husband decided to send their children to Youngstown Christian through EdChoice because they wanted their children to get a quality education in a safe environment and exposure to Christian education beyond just home and church.

School Choice Ohio conducted a news conference Thursday at Youngstown Christian School on Southern Boulevard to talk about the changes to the EdChoice program that allow more students to participate. National School Choice Week runs through Saturday.

Of Youngstown Christian’s 475 students, 270 attend the school through EdChoice, said Mike Pecchia, the school’s president.

The school has the most EdChoice students in Mahoning County and the fourth-most in Ohio.

The application period for the scholarship program begins next month.

Tuition for next year is $4,200 for kindergarten through eighth grade and $5,100 for high-school students. Youngstown Christian opened in 1975, and Pecchia said this year saw record enrollment.

EdChoice scholarships also are available for students with autism, and this year marks the first for the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship.

Last year, the number of available EdChoice vouchers increased from 14,000 to 60,000.

Many public-school officials decry EdChoice, saying it takes money away from public schools.

Matt Cox, School Choice Ohio executive director, disputes that.

He says the public schools retain their local property taxes and lose only state funding.

Religious organizations, including schools, are important to the fabric of a community too, Cox said.

“We’ve been told that vouchers have saved some Catholic schools from closing,” he said.

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