Cincinnati Schools Refuse State’s Request for Student Contact Information

Written by Jason Thomas for

It is estimated that 11,500 students in the Cincinnati schools are eligible to receive state paid vouchers in order to attend private schools next year. The state, however, has run into a snag with the Cincinnati schools, which refuses to provide the needed student contact information. Without the information, the Ohio Department of Education cannot let the parents know this opportunity exists for their children.
State officials say that the Cincinnati schools is the only major school district not providing the student information. According to J.C. Benton, spokesman for the state, a couple smaller districts also have not provided the data due to technical problems.
Advocates of the school vouchers are greatly concerned over this situation, especially since it involves such a large district as the Cincinnati schools. Many of these advocates cite the Cincinnati schools as blocking vital information from mostly impoverished families, who need the data the most.
Karen Tabor, spokeswoman for Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering), stated that the Cincinnati schools are undermining the very principle of school choice.
Lisa Claytor, director of Children’s Scholarship Fund of Greater Cincinnati, a nonprofit organization that provides student scholarships, said that families have a right to know about the EdChoice vouchers in all Ohio school districts. Claytor further stated that the Cincinnati schools had a right not to aggressively market the vouchers; however, they were “crossing the line” to deny parents such information that only helps their children. Claytor’s organization is supported by pro-voucher organizations; so, the Children’s Scholarship Fund has a stake in the EdChoice voucher program.
Janet Walsh, spokeswoman for the Cincinnati schools, stated unequivocally that the Cincinnati schools were not crossing any lines or trying to keep students and their parents from getting vouchers. The Cincinnati schools are protecting the privacy of their school families.
Last year, the state was able to obtain the needed information by requesting a directory from the Cincinnati schools. The Cincinnati schools provided their directory this year, as well; however, the format of the directory has changed. This year, only student names, activities and awards received appear in the directory, a change that many school districts across the nation have made.
Once student names, addresses and phone numbers are listed in a distribution list of any type, the list becomes public record and open to anyone who requests it for whatever purpose. This is true in many states. With growing concerns across the nation about identity theft, sexual predators, and custody issues, many school districts are opting to no longer include student addresses and phone numbers on any school list.
Zakia McKinney, executive director of Cincinnati Parents for Public Schools, applauds the action of the Cincinnati schools. McKinney noted that the state can use mailing lists from other sources, though they would have to pay for such lists.
Under the EdChoice program, the state pays up to $4,250 for private school tuition for kindergarten through eighth grade and $5,000 for grades nine through twelve. There are 27 Cincinnati schools on “academic watch” or “academic emergency”, whose students are eligible for vouchers.
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