Enrollment in Indiana’s private school voucher program has more than doubled this school year.
Indiana education officials confirmed Tuesday they’ve received more than 20,000 applications for voucher dollars. That means the program has more than quadrupled its enrollment since it started two years ago.
School Choice Indiana president Betsy Wiley, a voucher program advocate, attributes the increase to House Bill 1003, which won state lawmakers’ approval last session.
“Quite honestly it’s just phenomenal and nothing we ever dreamed of in 2011. I think it is in part the result of the legislation that the general assembly and Governor Pence passed,” she says.
Roughly 600,000 students, or 60 percent of Indiana’s K-12 population, are now eligible to receive vouchers.
Wiley speculates much of the program’s growth this year to a key provision of the new law: students do not have to attend public school for a year before receiving a voucher if they have a sibling who’s already done the same.
Ashlyn Nelson, an education policy professor at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, says families are more aware of the program than they were two years ago. But she isn’t convinced vouchers help every student access better education.
“There is no systematic evidence showing that vouchers benefit student achievements,” Nelson says.
The president of Indiana’s largest teachers union issued a statement saying the increase in voucher enrollment means fewer dollars for public schools, which has a direct impact on the depth of public school programs.