Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Diocese Ends Referral Incentives For Catholic Schools In Indiana Voucher Program

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

A student sits in class at a South Bend Catholic school.

From the South Bend Tribune:

A full-page advertisement appeared in St. Jude Catholic Parish’s bulletin recently pitching a $300 incentive bonus that’s available for referring students to St. Jude School in South Bend.

The ad — and its potential implications — caused some discord at South Bend Community School Corp.’s meeting Monday evening when Bill Sniadecki, the board’s vice president, said he feels such an incentive policy is unethical for a school that now accepts state vouchers.

“That (state tuition) money is supposed to be going to kids’ education,” he later said, “not some outside individual to recruit kids.” 

Mark Myers, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, said the practice of some of the Catholic Diocese of Ft. Wayne-South Bend’s 41 schools offering referral incentives has been in place for five years, long before the voucher program began.

But in light of the concerns The Tribune brought to his attention, that policy is now suspended, effective immediately, he said…

Myers said last year, two individuals were paid $300 Scrip incentives for referrals of two students who ended up attending [St. Jude Catholic School in South Bend] via the vouchers. However, Myers said, no state money was used for those incentives.

According to Indiana Department of Education data, the school accepted 17 students through the voucher program at a cost to the state of more than $68,000.

Earlier this year, StateImpact visited Our Lady of Hungary — another Catholic school in South Bend — that enrolls 65 students through the voucher program, earning a total of more than $290,000 in state scholarship money.

Of the 3,919 students currently enrolled in the state’s voucher program, state data show that 374 of those students reside in the boundaries of the South Bend Community Schools.

Only two other districts saw a greater exodus to the voucher program. Fort Wayne Community Schools saw 393 students leave to enroll in a private school with the help of the voucher program. Indianapolis Public Schools lost 644 students to the program.

The Tribune reported that the diocese is “extremely confident” no state money was involved in the referral incentives.

With the South Bend school district about to launch a marketing campaign of its own, do you think the diocese should be allowed to continue the incentives? Or is the practice “unethical”?


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