A Whirlwind of Education Reform in Indiana

August 28, 2012

Indiana schools have experienced a change stemming from Governor Mitch Daniels' new voucher program. The voucher scheme was set up a year ago and is part of larger educational reforms undertaken by the governor and the superintendent of schools. These include teacher evaluations that look at student performance, giving schools more autonomy and increasing charter schools, says The Economist.

Daniels' voucher program pays less than what it would cost to have that student in public school, which cuts down on the state's education costs. Voucher programs are slowly gaining popularity all over the country.

  • There exist 32 school voucher programs in 16 states and Washington, D.C.
  • There are 210,000 students taking advantage of these voucher programs nationwide.
  • Eighty-five to 90 percent of students taking advantage of the Indiana voucher program come from households that qualify for free lunches.

Students can use the Indiana voucher to go to charter schools, private schools and public schools in other districts that they deem better. This has created competition among schools all across the state. Public school administrators are making reforms to increase education standards to make their school more attractive. Schools have even started to offer incentives like IPads to students, and some advertise through billboard ads or mailing campaigns about why their school is the best choice for students.

Opponents make two arguments against the voucher system. First, they say that the vouchers can be used for students to go to private schools, meaning public money is being funneled into private institutions, thus privatizing education. A second concern is that the vouchers can be used for students to go to religious schools, which blurs the line between church and state.

In spite of the opposition, the program has made clear progress and is a model for other states reforming their education systems. For instance, every student performance indicator has shown improvements. Moreover, in the last two years, Indiana has ranked second in the nation for college-level courses taken in high school.

Source: "Extreme Couponing," The Economist, August 18, 2012.

 

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