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Flashpoint

June 11, 2012

FLASHPOINT: Voucher program shows promise for local families

TERRE HAUTE — Now that the 2011-2012 school year has ended, it is a good time to evaluate how the school voucher program has served Hoosier families and what’s in store for the year ahead.

Twenty-seven students from Vigo County received vouchers to attend a school of their choice last year and many more students are expected to benefit from the program in the future. Local families who are interested in the program will be able to learn more at an informational meeting to be held in Terre Haute later this month.

Indiana claims the title of the biggest first-year voucher program in the nation. When the voucher program started last summer, the initial application window was tight and families had lots of questions. But even facing those challenges, nearly 4,000 students were approved for participation in year one and nearly 85 percent of those children were on the free and reduced lunch program. That statistic is important because it means that more Hoosier parents can now afford to choose schools that are best suited to meet their child’s individual learning needs.

Program savings are redistributed to Indiana’s public schools. Indiana’s voucher program has redistributed nearly $4.2 million in savings to 292 school corporations and 63 charter schools around the state. Based on a five-step formula, Vigo County School Corp. has received a total of $64,812.11 through the redistributed savings and those funds will provide additional resources for educating students.

These savings were generated because the maximum amount of each voucher is less than what the state would have spent on the child in a public school. So, the voucher program saves the state money and those savings are redistributed to schools statewide.

The program provides life-changing experiences for thousands of Hoosier families. While the participation and savings data are good measures, the real success of Indiana’s voucher program can be found in the stories of the individual lives affected by this program.

Many parents tell us that the voucher program has been a life-changing experience for them and their children. They can now afford to choose a learning environment that is best suited for their individual needs. And they comment on how they appreciate having access to smaller class sizes and more one-on-one attention from teachers.

Program participation is expected to increase significantly. The voucher program application window is currently open and the participation cap for the 2012-2013 year has increased to 15,000 students. With more time for families to apply, more schools participating and greater awareness of the program overall, we expect significantly more families to take advantage of vouchers for the year ahead.

School Choice Indiana operates the MyChoiceINed.com website that provides information about the voucher program and other school choice programs.

Local families interested in learning more about participation eligibility requirements and the application process are also encouraged to attend an informational meeting that School Choice Indiana will host on June 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Patrick School. The session will provide a helpful forum for parents to hear how the program works and to have their questions answered.

The voucher program has already delivered tremendous opportunity to students and families in Terre Haute and across Indiana. We celebrate all that has happened so far and we look forward to seeing more local families benefiting from having access to quality educational options in the future.

 — Lindsey Brown

Executive director

School Choice Indiana

— John Elcesser

Executive director

Indiana Non-Public Education Association

— Glenn Tebbe

Executive director

Indiana Catholic Conference

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