Indiana Voucher Program Draws Cheers and Jeers

August 30, 2011

In April, the Indiana Legislature provided another option for parents seeking quality education -- vouchers that allow low-and middle-income families to use public funds to help pay private school tuition, says USA Today.

  • The Indiana school voucher program -- the nation's second statewide program -- has been a boon to parents and to more than 240 religious schools now eligible to receive public funds.
  • But the law, which allows families to redirect money from the school district in which their children reside to private schools, is being contested and sharply criticized by public school officials and the state teachers' union, which contends that vouchers offer a stealth subsidy for religious schools and drain critical funds from already cash-poor public schools.
  • Opponents have filed a lawsuit alleging it violates the Indiana constitution's required separation of church and state -- all but six of the 242 non-public schools so far approved for the voucher program have religious affiliations.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said the initial voucher numbers simply reflect the fact that the vast majority of Indiana private schools are religious and the intent is not to subsidize religious schools.

  • State officials report 3,259 students have enrolled so far, which eclipses the first-year enrollment in Ohio, home of the United States' only other statewide voucher system.
  • Ohio's program attracted 2,713 students its first year in 2007, according to the Ohio Department of Education website.

Indiana has a cap of 7,500 vouchers this year and no more than 15,000 next year.  The cap will be lifted in 2013 and there will be no limit on the number of students who can obtain vouchers, according to the Indiana Department of Education.  The financial impact on Indiana Public Schools so far been is relatively small -- $2.5 million to $3 million, or about 1 percent of its $290 million budget.

Source: Scott Elliott, "Ind. School Voucher Program Cheered, Criticized," USA Today, August 29, 2011.

For text:

http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2011-08-28/Ind-school-voucher-program-cheered-criticized/50169064/1

 

Browse more articles on Education Issues