Eighty of the more than 300 schools involved in the state’s voucher system announced Wednesday they will return $3.9 million in voucher scholarship funds to the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program.
A new study on tuition and financial aid practices, released by the Indiana Non-Public Education Association, found the group overpaid those schools over the course of three years due to unintentional errors in calculating voucher costs.
John Elcesser, executive director of the INPEA, tells The Indianapolis Star that most of the errors happened because schools forgot to apply discounts for parishioners (at Catholic schools), families enrolling more than one child or employees. He adds that families were not overcharged.
Staff at IndyPolitics.org reports on the schools affected:
Of that sum, $3,715,517 was returned by Catholic schools, which enroll approximately 60% of all students receiving Choice Scholarships. According to Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, the five Catholic dioceses in Indiana operate 176 schools serving 55,600 students.
“When we discovered through our own review that unintentional errors may have been made in calculating Choice Scholarships, we quickly took action to identify the mistakes, correct them, and return all overpayments to the State of Indiana,” Tebbe said. “We are grateful for the Choice Scholarship Program and the educational opportunities it provides financially disadvantaged families, foster parents and students with special needs.”
Elcesser said some schools misinterpreted complex guidelines for calculating scholarships, especially as the program changed in each of the three years since its inception.
“Tuition and financial-aid practices are complex and vary from school to school,” Elcesser said. “At some of our member schools, honest mistakes were made.”
A spokesman for state superintendent Glenda Ritz says her office is reviewing the information, according to the Associated Press.
Met w/ DOE Wed. to report Choice Scholarship compliance review. Appreciate support of all Choice Schools in identifying & fixing errors
— John Elcesser (@inpeajohn) December 18, 2014
Choice Scholarships have been available to low- and middle-income families for the past three school years. Check out how those vouchers were distributed among private schools last year on our most recent sortable table.
Expanding Indiana’s voucher program will be part of Gov. Mike Pence’s agenda in the upcoming legislative session. He recently announced intentions to eliminate the $4,800 cap on the amount of money families get through elementary school vouchers.
Pence also says he wants to increase funding for charter schools.