Students, staff and parent volunteers from Holy Cross Catholic Schools traveled to the Ohio Statehouse on May 2 to show support for School Choice and Senate Bill 85.

The local contingient, which traveled to the capital on two charter buses supplied through funding from School Choice Ohio, where among thousands of students from private schools from around the state gathered together for a rally on the steps of the Statehouse, intended to demonstrate to legislators the passion families have for the freedom to choose the school that best fits their family, regardless of economic status.

If passed, Senate Bill 85 would replace the current EdChoice and EdChoice Expansion Scholarship program.

Under EdChoice, families assigned to schools designated by the state are eligible for a tuition scholarship to attend private schools, which includes many of the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Youngstown. The second program, EdChoice Expansion, provides scholarships to families with students entering kindergarten, first, second and fourth grade to attend private schools if the family’s household income is at or below 200 percent of the poverty line.

Senate Bill 85 would replace both EdChoice programs and allow families to access their tax dollars - up to $5,000 - for students to attend an elementary school of their choice or up to $7,500 for students to attend a private high school of their choice, if their family income is at or below 400 percent of the poverty line.

Some examples of who would be eligible include a household with two members and a household income at or below $64,100, a household with three members and a household income at or below $84,650, or a household with four members and an income level at or below $97,200 would all be eligible for a scholarship to attend a private school. The bill also eliminates the cap on the number of tuition scholarship dollars awarded each year. Senate Bill 85 is being debated in the Education Committee and a vote is anticipated for this summer.

During the rally, students and members of the State Senate and House of Representatives shared stories that were personal to them which demonstrated why they support School Choice. According to Holy Cross Catholic Schools President Jackie Zufall in a news release, “the personal stories shared at the rally were powerful. They illustrated how a child, who is failing in one school, can be successful when they are placed in a setting that meets their educational needs. One size or type of school does not fit every child; School Choice provides the freedom to choose and offer success to every child. Why would we want anything other than success for our children?”

The trip also served as an extension of the learning being done in the classroom. It allowed students to participate in the activity associated with creating new laws. Through-out the year, students learn about policy making at the state level. During the rally, various members of the Legislature spoke to attendees such as Sen. Matt Hoffman (R-Lima), the author of Senate Bill 85, Speaker of the House Sen. Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarsksville) and Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina). Speakers discussed with students the process of passing legislation which paralleled the discussions students had in the classroom earlier this year. Students were also treated to a tour of the Statehouse which offered them the opportunity to see government in action.