Voucher Program Doubles, Still Well Under Cap

More than 9,000 students are taking part in Indiana's voucher program, but the state has allocated enough money for up to 15,000 students.

Central Middle School.

Photo: Pavel Trebukov/Flickr

Bartholomew County lost about 50 students to private schools this year because of school vouchers. (above) Central Middle School

Despite a doubling of Indiana’s school voucher program in its second year, fewer than 10,000 students across the state are enrolled in it. The vouchers, known officially as the Choice Scholarship Program, had allocated funds for up to 15,000 students this year, but only 9,324 kids took part.

During the first year of the school voucher program, Lighthouse Christian Academy, a K-12 private school just south of Bloomington, had only six students take advantage of the program. The vouchers, which provide up to 90-percent of tuition to a non-public school, are available to lower income families.

Lighthouse Christian Principal Don Wilson says while 22 of his students now receive vouchers, that’s still only 10-percent of total enrollment. But Wilson says the number in fall of 2012 is still more than triple what it was a year ago.

“Evidenced by of our growth from six to 22 in one year, I think that’s one evidence that as more people find out,” he says. “Generally, we find that we do get questions when we get inquires, a lot people don’t understand how the program works.”

Wilson says many of the families who receive vouchers at his school would not be able to attend without them. As enrollment grows, Lighthouse has plans to add several classrooms and a new library.

Public school educators across the state have been opposed to the voucher program, because it takes tax money away from public schools.

Monroe County Community School Corporation school board member Sue Wanzer says while MCCSC has not yet lost a large number of students, she still believes the voucher program is flawed.

“It’s taking state taxpayer money and using that to fund private education, which certainly does not have to uphold the same kinds of standards our public education systems do,” she says.

Monroe, Vigo, and Bartholomew schools have each lost just more than 50 students to the voucher program. Indianapolis Public Schools are the hardest-hit, losing more than 1,200 students, and the tax dollars associated with those kids.

Dan Goldblatt

Dan Goldblatt is the Multi-media Producer for WFIU/WTIU News. A graduate of Indiana University, he studied journalism and anthropology. He currently lives in Bloomington with his cat, June Carter.

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