Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Fewer Indiana Students Spending Time In Public School Before Receiving Vouchers

Students work on research notecards in Melinda Bundy's ninth grade English class at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.

The number of students attending Cathedral High School in Indiana on state-funded tuition vouchers has increased from 18 in 2011-12 to 126 this year. Overall, 19,809 Indiana students received Choice Scholarships in 2013-14.

UPDATED, 9:13 p.m. EST: As Indiana’s voucher program grows, fewer participating students are spending time in public school before switching to private school.

That’s according to a report released Monday by the Indiana Department of Education on third-year enrollment in the state’s Choice Scholarship Program. The state awarded 19,809 vouchers for the 2013-14 school year, up from 9,139 last year and 3,911 two years ago.

Click here to see how many students enrolled in participating Indiana private schools using vouchers. Click here to find out how many students who reside in your district are attending private schools.

During the program’s first two years, income-eligible students had to have spent two semesters in public school or been awarded a scholarship by a state-approved granting organization to receive a voucher. As a result, about 90 percent of first-year voucher participants had spent time in a public school.

Two years later, the number of voucher students who previously attended public school has dropped to about 60 percent.

“So every student in Indiana is assigned an STN number,” says Fatima Carson, choice specialist for the Indiana Department of Education. “When these students apply for the Choice Scholarship, we’ll run that STN number through, and we don’t see a record of that STN number, that student, as having been in an Indiana public school.”

Fewer students are spending time in public school before becoming eligible for a Choice Scholarship.

Fewer students are spending time in public school before becoming eligible for a Choice Scholarship.

Part of the decrease can be attributed to new eligibility categories state lawmakers approved last session. Siblings of current students, students living in the attendance zone of an F school and students receiving special education services now automatically qualify for vouchers.

The changes added 5,225 students to the Choice Scholarship Program who would not have qualified under the old rule requiring two semesters in a public school.

Indiana will pay an estimated $81 million in private school tuition this year, up from $15.5 million in 2011-12. The cost-per-voucher is slightly less than amount the state gives to public schools per student. Called the “Choice Scholarship Savings Distribution,” that pot of money totaled $4.1 million two years ago and $4.9 million last year.

But public schools only see payments when students leave public school for private school. The pot doesn’t grow when students receive vouchers based on one of the new eligibility categories.

“We’re now paying scholarships for this cluster of kids that we would never had paid any public funding for them to be in the public school,” says Carson.

It’s estimated half of Indiana’s roughly one million students are income-eligible for vouchers.

We’ll have more on third-year voucher participation as information becomes available from the IDOE.

Comments

  • Jo Blacketor

    So when it is stated that the voucher dollars (roughly $4500) is slightly less than the public school (In South Bend over $12,000) how is that justified? And, where does the difference go? Back to the public schools (minus the students) correct?

    • Elle Moxley

      Jo — I used “slightly less” referring to the maximum high school voucher, which is up to 90 percent of a district’s per pupil tuition support ($7,088 for 2012-13 for South Bend Community Schools, the last year I have data). It’s five-step calculation more complicated than the simple difference, so the district doesn’t receive the difference between $7,088 and the maximum K-8 voucher of $4,500. My point was that the pot isn’t growing as fast as the voucher program because fewer participating students attended public school as an eligibility requirement. Hope that helps!

      • Jo Blacketor

        Thanks for the South Bend details. Some one in the public schools gets the $7,088 without the students. The private schools are delivering education for $4500.

        • Jorfer88

          The average complexity payment for the state for 2013 was $1,066, so it would be on $5471 for the state. South Bend has a larger free and reduced rate than the rest of the state. Also, regardless that additional money does not go anywhere if a student qualified without going to a public school before. The state keeps that by law is what Elle is saying.

          • Jo Blacketor

            No – by law – the state redistributes it to public schools in the state. I sat on the IDOE board when we approved that distribution.

          • Elle Moxley

            Jo, Jorfer88 — To clarify what I was saying earlier, when students transfer from public to private schools, there is a cost savings to the state that goes into a pot that is redistributed to districts that have lost students to vouchers. But that’s only some students. The state is now paying for vouchers for students who are eligible in a way that did not require public school attendance. So those students now come out of the large pool of state money for education where before they didn’t (and in some cases their parents paid their tuition). I’ll have more tomorrow that hopefully clarifies this point further. But for now I’m calling it a night!

          • Jorfer88

            Looking forward to tomorrow’s article. From what I can tell, there is no requirement that the difference in funding for those students that transfer from a public school goes back to the districts, so if the state is swamped by those that are getting vouchers without ever having been in public schools, then that results in no extra money from that allocated to education based on public school attendance (so I am guessing if more private school students went to public school that had never been there than those going to private and charter on scholarship, there would be a deficit that the state would then have to replenish in the next year?)

          • Elle Moxley

            Jorfer88, I promise I haven’t forgotten about this — it’s taking me a little longer I need to get the data to put together an explainer, but I should have it by next week. Apologies!

          • Jorfer88

            I was wondering what happened. Good to know you haven’t forgotten.

        • Jo Blacketor

          For those interested in a 2008 overview of the per student/per district spreadsheet – I’d be glad to share it. Just let me know here with your email address. Unfortunately, this spreadsheet isn’t done on a regular basis (but it should be) so 2008 is the most recent one I have.

          • Jo Blacketor

            Just uploaded the spreadsheet to my slideshare account for anyone interested. Take a look at 2008′s breakdown realizing its increased since then.

          • Jorfer88

            It is important to note that funding has changed quite a bit since 2008. The foundational amount was $4,790 in 2008 ($5,226 today inflation adjusted) versus the current one of $4,405. Plus a so called 7 year transition plan was created to help those districts starting in 2012 with high spending to transition to new spending rules (currently effects 110 of 292 district budgets).

      • Jo Blacketor

        Per above response do your calculations include the special ed, CPF, Transportation and/or Food Services funds?

        • Elle Moxley

          Jo — the $7,088 figure doesn’t include special ed, CPF, transportation, food services, etc., just what the state pays for pupil. I’m posting the 2012-13 amounts if anyone is interested: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AsPDc0u7Jr7PdHE0dkp5Q1dONDB0bEJHNFg2elAyT1E&usp=drive_web#gid=0

          • Jo Blacketor

            Elle – helpful chart but realizing that it shows only the “basic foundation” and comparing it to the vouchers flat $4500 isn’t comparing apples to apples. For example, the first school listed – if you divide the ADM into the total amount its roughly $11,588. I realize that some of that is administrative costs, etc. but if we are comparing real tax dollars distributed you have to include special ed/transportation/food services, plus basic foundation to the voucher’s flat $4500. Otherwise, its “fuzzy math.”

          • Jorfer88

            For the chart she just gave, if you divide the total by ADM for 21st century it is $7773, so I’m not sure what you are talking about there.

    • Jorfer88

      $12,000. I don’t think that is right. That must include special education dollars when the voucher money is only talking about the base amount ($4,405 in 2013) and calculated based on this article the state paid out $4,336 per student in private and charter schools for vouchers ($81 mil for private and $4.9 mil for charter with 19809 participants). The difference in money from students enrolled that didn’t attend public school just stays in the general fund, and so doesn’t benefit public schools (it is just a growing expense for Indiana).

    • Ryan Ridgley

      The difference stays in the state coffers. They dont redistribute it. The funding formula locks in a school corporations funding. If more students use vouchers and it saves the state money, they do not put it back into education.

  • HoosierMommy

    Why are we using tax money for vouchers when the public schools are not being reimbursed for losses and even the most basic requirements for participation are not, in fact, required? Real obvious, actually, that Gov Pence, by actively marginalizing the voters’ choice for superintendent of education and taking money from the public schools for vouchers, which largely are used for parochial schools, is working hard to turn Indiana into a theocracy.

  • Indy Parent

    Remember that eligibility for vouchers is totally based on family income. Family assets (houses, vehicles, bank accounts, savings, investments, etc) can be limitless and not affect voucher eligibility. Also, for students in joint custody situations, if either parent’s income meets voucher eligibility limits, the student qualifies for a voucher, regardless of how high the other parent’s income may be. This may make sense for free/reduced lunch eligibility (err on the side of making sure no one goes hungry), but not for deciding who gets private (nearly all religious) school paid for with already scarce public school funding. The eligibility rule could be easily abused.

    • Jo Blacketor

      If there is any abuse, the Indiana Department of Education processes all of the requests. I’m sure they are thorough!

      • Ryan Ridgley

        That is a joke. A state agency being thorough. You mean like free and reduced numbers that a school corporation can only audit 3 percent of all applicants. Yeah no fraud going on there. The politicians have already decided they dont want to truly fund public education.

      • InIndy In

        To clarify, families who are wealthy in assets but manage to keep their reportable income within the voucher law eligibility limits in the year they first apply can legally get the vouchers, but are they really who the public (and perhaps many of the legislators) had in mind when they supported the voucher legislation? And can’t they now renew the voucher in future years, even if their income rises above those limits? Think about the young couple with their first school age child. If they are asset wealthy, all they have to do is lower their income for one year (let one spouse stay home for the year, go to part time work, take their losses that year on bad investments, etc) and school is paid for for years. Not many upper middle class people would do that to get a free lunch. But for tuition paid by the state to the private school of choice (and especially if they believe it is their right regardless of income/assets) . . . ?

  • Jorfer88

    As far as special education funding, look up the article “Special-education is large-ticket spending item in
    South Bend” It indicates that the public school district is still
    responsible for funding the special education of students in private
    schools, so the money they are receiving separately for them is still
    supposed to be getting to them. Thus vouchers don’t need to cover them.

    • Jo Blacketor

      Responsible and delivery is two different things.

      • Jorfer88

        Well, the way the law is written, if the parents so choose, they can receive the per pupil special education money for their voucher students in addition to the $4,500 max on the general amount (see IC 20-51-4-4 (2) )

  • Jo Blacketor

    Elle – helpful chart but realizing that it shows only the “basic foundation” and comparing it to the vouchers flat $4500 isn’t comparing apples to apples. For example, the first school listed – if you divide the ADM into the total amount its roughly $11,588. I realize that some of that is administrative costs, etc. but if we are comparing real tax dollars distributed you have to include special ed/transportation/food services, plus basic foundation to the voucher’s flat $4500. Otherwise, its “fuzzy math.”

  • Jorfer88

    So in other word from what I have said below, if more than roughly 11% (10/90) of the program’s children do not come from a public school (as happened the last school year) the savings difference is considered a wash, and there is no “Choice Scholarship Savings Distribution”.

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