Indiana

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State Voucher Program Growing Exponentially In Some Districts

The number of students enrolled in the state-funded voucher program that allows them to attend private schools is growing exponentially, according to an updated report released from the Department of Education last week.

Here’s a look at where the most students are using vouchers, according to their school corporation of legal settlement, or what district they would be part of if they went to public school:

One look at the data makes it seem as though students are leaving their public schools in droves to use state money to attend private school, but there’s more to the numbers than that. As more scholarships became available, the eligibility for students who get them also changed.

The program’s original intention was to award vouchers to students attending failing schools, but data shows the number students using the vouchers who never attended a public school grew.

During the 2011-2012 school year — the first year vouchers were available — around 10 percent of students using vouchers never attended an Indiana public school. In the 2014-2015 school year, that number jumped to 50 percent.

Krista Stockman, spokesperson for Fort Wayne Community Schools, says changing the qualification requirements goes against one of the main goals of school vouchers.

“It was originally billed as a way for families to escape failing schools,” Stockman says. “But if you look at even that pathway, there are very, very few students who were actually in an F-rated school who use a voucher.”

Last year only 2 percent of students using a voucher came from a failing school.

Although thousands of students in the Fort Wayne district aren’t attending the public schools because of vouchers, Stockman says it isn’t dramatically hurting their enrollment. Because more students aren’t attending public school first, Fort Wayne schools never even saw those kids.

The year vouchers first became available, enrollment in FWCS was 31,568. Last year it was 30,607, with slight fluctuations in the years in between.

The update to the report found that the voucher program is costing the state $40 million, whereas in previous years there was a surplus.

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