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Private schools will be banned from accepting new voucher students if turnover among those students is high two years in a row, state officials said Tuesday.

Vouchers are state aid that allows some public school students from low-income families to attend private schools at state expense.

About 6,600 students get the assistance to attend the roughly 120 private and parochial schools that accept them.

Olin Parker, executive director of charter and non-public schools for the state Department of Education, spelled out the policy during a nearly two-hour meeting of the Nonpublic Schools Council.

Parker said the average yearly turnover of voucher students is 16.5 percent.

Under the policy, schools where turnover is double that -- 33 percent or higher -- two consecutive years will be prohibited from taking new voucher students in the third year.

If that many students are fleeing schools, officials said, it is a sign of problems.

"It is parents voting with their feet," Parker said. "It is a pretty good indication of what is going on in the schools."

Schools that see 33 percent or more of voucher students leaving after one year will get a notification from the state.

If the same thing happens the next year the sanctions will take effect.

Parker said the policy will include waivers, such as cases where a small number of students transferring run afoul of the rules because the voucher population is so small in that school.

Vouchers, which are officially called scholarships, have sparked controversy since they were expanded statewide in 2012.

Backers contend the aid offers students a way out of troubled public schools.

Opponents argue that vouchers are a drain on state aid for public schools.

Critics have also said some sub-par private schools have sought voucher students to generate income.

The turnover requirement will be in effect for the 2018-19 school year.

That means the first sanctions would take effect in the 2020-21 school year.

The state is spending around $45 million in the upcoming school year for vouchers.

Average tuition last year was $4,925.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.