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Published: Saturday, 12/30/2006

Taft signs bill expanding use of school vouchers

BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft yesterday signed into law a bill greatly expanding the number of parents eligible to apply for taxpayer-funded vouchers to send their children to the public, private, and religious schools of their choice.

The bill also:

•Includes provisions designed to increase oversight on quasipublic charter schools.

•Expands the authority of the Ohio Department of Education to demand criminal background checks every five years on teachers it licenses.

•Requires all schools, public and private, to report suspected misconduct by teachers to state licensing officials.

The number of vouchers, or scholarships, available in the next school year will remain unchanged at 14,000, but the number of academically struggling schools where students could apply would be increased from 99 to 212. Three-quarters of the grants went unused this year.

Among the 212 schools are 19 Toledo Public Schools buildings, 2 in Sandusky, and 5 in Lima. The schools must have been classified as being in academic emergency or watch in two of the last three years.

If approved, low-to-moderate-income parents could receive vouchers of $4,250 for children in grades up to eight and $5,900 for high schoolers toward tuition at another school.



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