A little over a week ago, we published an analysis of Indiana’s voucher program and how it’s evolved over the last five years.
The program has grown since the 2011 General Assembly created it and former governor Mitch Daniels signed it into law. It grew because the qualifications for a charter changed dramatically.
As the criteria by which students can qualify for vouchers expanded, enrollment in the program grew exponentially.
When looking at enrollment in the program, it is also important to understand its capacity – how many private schools have open spots and can welcome students using a voucher to pay tuition.
Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, authored the original voucher program in 2011 and supported its expansions through the years. He said, when they first created the program, they saw capacity for 30,000 students to enroll.
With last years numbers, it seems we are close to that. Enrollment slowed from early, dramatic growth to a few thousand between the 2014-2015 school year. The 2015-2016 school year also makes us think we might be capping out.
But Drew Catt, director for State Research and Policy Analysis at EdChoice, a school choice advocacy group based in Indianapolis, says there is still room to grow.
During the 2013-2014 school year, his group surveyed private schools to see what their capacity for new students was. The Indiana Non-Public Education Association contributed to the survey as well.
“We found, at the time, that there were enough empty seats to grow the program by [21,300],” Catt says.
He’s now recalculated this number to include new data and enrollment, and says there are around 8,500 open seats in private schools that could be used by a voucher. And he says this could even rise to 11,000, what he calls a “cautious estimate,” because of the addition of a few private schools around the state.
In 2013, the legislature adjusted the program so there is no cap on the number of vouchers awarded; meaning any student that qualifies for a scholarship and can enroll somewhere can receive a voucher.