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Ohio Schools Superintendent Weighs In On Voucher Program Modification

DeMariaOhio school's CEO Paolo DeMaria maintains that vouchers create the competition that improves public schools.

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A proposal in state Senate that would modify Ohio's voucher program is getting a qualified endorsement from the superintendent of the state's schools.

The proposal would combine the state’s five voucher programs. Right now, their distribution is based largely on the quality of the public school district in which the student lives. The new plan would base place more emphasis on income.

Ohio Department of Education Superintendent Paolo DeMaria says he does not see that as something that would harm public schools, and in fact might have the opposite effect.

"You can't really create a configuration where you ever get to the point where it's such a big number of students using vouchers. And I think it accrues to the benefit of the traditional schools to make sure they're as excellent as they can be. Because then that sort of obviates the need for people to be put into the position of, 'what's in the best interest of my student?'"

DeMaria adds that there’s still discussion to be had about the legislation.

"To me, the bottom line is: excellent schools. No matter what flag -- if they're private schools, if they're charter schools, if they're public schools -- we want excellent schools. To the extent that students are given the choice, recognizing that different kinds of students are going to be successful in different kinds of settings."

Critics of the bill say the plan will subsidize private schools and then steer them away from the original intent of helping families pay for education outside of a failing school district.