Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Indy Star: What Louisiana High Court Voucher Decision Means For Indiana

    Elle Moxley/StateImpact Indiana

    St. Charles Catholic School in Bloomington added 15 students when it started accepting vouchers in 2012.

    The Louisiana Supreme Court struck down the state’s voucher law Tuesday. That could leave Indiana’s expansive voucher program standing alone, writes Scott Elliott for the Indianapolis Star:

    The [Louisiana] judges’ decision appears to make it particularly hard for the program to be revived by the legislature, as it will probably require a separate funding source, banning lawmakers from redirecting state per pupil aid from school districts that students use voucher to leave in favor of private schools.

    This is about as far off the recent Indiana Supreme Court decision, which upheld a similar program here a little over a month ago, as the court could have gone.

    For Indiana, it’s significant because it likely leaves the Hoosier state standing alone as the prime example of a very wide-ranging voucher program.

    Right now, Indiana has the third largest traditional voucher program in the country (that is, aimed at traditional students rather than a specific subset of students like those who are handicapped and employing direct state aid, as opposed to reimbursement through tax refunds or rebates). Milwaukee’s program is the oldest (1990) and the largest (24,000 kids). Ohio is second both in age (2005) and size (16,000). … Indiana’s voucher program, founded in 2011, comes in third with 9,300 students. But Louisiana’s 2012 program was right on it heels at about 8,000. Both Indiana and Louisiana were seeing vouchers grow at blazing speed compared to their more mature counterparts.

    Elliott says both the Indiana and Louisiana programs were designed for rapid growth — the two programs targeted low-income students and underperforming schools without targeting a particular geographic area. But Tuesday’s ruling puts the brakes on Louisiana’s program.

    With a green light from state’s high court, Indiana lawmakers proceeded with voucher expansion this session, allowing students who live in the attendance zones of F-rated schools or whose siblings already receive Choice Scholarships to receive vouchers without spending a year in public school first.

    Still, voucher proponents say the changes won’t mean a mass exodus of students from public school to private.

    “I don’t know that I think this means that all of a sudden we’re going to have vouchers everywhere in Indiana, that it’s going to open up the floodgates or anything,” says Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis.

    We’ve written before that there may be a limit to the number of students Indiana’s existing private schools can accept.


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