Ask The Ed Reporters: Can Private School Keep Voucher Money If Student Gets Kicked Out?
Question, from the comments section of yesterday’s story about vouchers: “What happens to the voucher money if a private school kicks a student out before the end of the year? Does the voucher money stay with the school, even if it’s no longer educating the student? Does a pro-rated portion return to the state?”
Answer: It depends largely on when the student is kicked out.
First, a word on the mechanics of the program (as outlined here by the Indiana Department of Education): The student’s family never actually has possession of state money when they’re admitted to the voucher program. The money goes directly to the school receiving the vouchers, which total as much as $4,500 per student.
The school gets this money in two payments — one in October, one in February. Key to answering the commenter’s question, though, is the fact that both the school’s administrators and the students’ parent or guardian have to sign off on state paperwork each semester in order for the school to get the voucher money.
The state spells out that, whenever the student is expelled, the school must promptly notify the Department of Education, and “funding for the expelled student will be affected, depending on when the expulsion occurs.” Reading between the lines, it’s likely that if the student were to be kicked out, say, at the beginning of the spring semester, the school would be able to keep the October payment, but wouldn’t receive a February payment.
It’s not quite “pro-rating,” like the commenter wonders. It could be close to pro-rating though —the documentation suggests it all depends on the situation and timing, but the state doesn’t want to pay private schools for educating students no longer on the private school’s rolls. And in any case, if a student were expelled before February, parents wouldn’t sign off on the school receiving a second voucher payment.
(As a side note, the state also doesn’t want to pay for voucher students’ transfers to multiple voucher-eligible schools during the same year. They can transfer to a different private school after a school year is over and then apply again for another state voucher.)
Any questions about all of the education policy changes in Indiana this year? Just ask us in our comments section! We’re happy to effort our best response, or do some reporting to try and find the answer.