The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

January 27, 2014

Grade-school scholarships give more education options

ASHTABULA — A private school education can be pricey, but thanks to two scholarships more families can now afford the education they want.

Saint John School President Sister Maureen Burke said they already have 36 students enrolled that are benefiting from the scholarships that are funded through the Ohio Department of Education.

The Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program provides scholarships to eligible students, grades kindergarten through 12, who have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) from their school district of residence. The awarded scholarship amount is based on the disability identified in the IEP and does not exceed $20,000.

Burke explained that while the funding of public schools permits for the additional help for students with IEPs, St. John’s private, non-profit funding does not. “Before the scholarship, we couldn’t provide things like speech therapy, additional tutoring, or intervention specialists. The scholarship pays for the students to get the help they need,” she said.

This is the third year for the scholarship, and the application period begins in February and ends April 15. To apply, parents of eligible students must first register with a Peterson Scholarship Provider, such as St. John School. Currently 30 students at St. John School benefit from the program.

The other scholarship, now in its second year, is the Expanded EdChoice scholarship which is available for incoming kindergartners and first-graders whose family income is at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Currently, 200 percent of the poverty level for a family of four is $47,100 annually. More information on the Federal Poverty Guidelines is available at www.familiesusa.org.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for families who want something different for their children,” Burke said. “The state has intentionally made it income-based so that families that may have never been able to afford a private or Catholic education now have that option. This scholarship levels the playing field.”

The Expanded EdChoice scholarships are also renewable, meaning that, as long as the student continues to meet the requirements, they can get the scholarship every year up to graduation. St. John currently has six students benefiting from the program.

The program will accept applications between February 1 and April 15.

For both scholarship options, Director of Enrollment Keith Corlew said it would be easiest for interested families to contact him directly for more information and to see if they qualify. He can be contacted at (440) 997-5531 ext. 226. Also, all families must meet standard St. John enrollment criteria.

The school will be hosting an informational meeting, “How to Finance a St. John Education,” on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria. “We don’t want cost to be a big hurdle for families that really want to be here,” said Corlew. “The worst thing is when a family comes in, loves what we’re doing and talks about how much they want for their children to go here, and then the money doesn’t work out.

“There’s no school or district that’s right for every family; it’s about fit.” he said. “These programs give families the ability to include us in their options when maybe they couldn’t before.”

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