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Indiana’s voucher program expands; diversity a factor in one family’s choice of school

By   /   October 3, 2013  /   News  /   1 Comment

Part 8 of 126 in the series Educating America

By Mary C. Tillotson | Watchdog.org

CHOICE: More than 20,000 children are attending private schools through vouchers in the program’s third year.

In its third year, Indiana’s school voucher program has grown to be the third largest in the country.

And it’s making a difference for Indiana children – like Nicholas Ford, a seventh-grader who is attending St. Joan of Arc Catholic School in Indianapolis with a voucher.

“Since he’s been there, he’s been doing wonderfully.  He’s been challenged. There are more opportunities for him to participate in extracurricular activities. He’s in the school play. He’s in the band. Academically, he’s doing fantastic,” his mother, Karinya Chrisler, said.

Through the program, eligible families can use public money to attend private schools. The amount varies based on grade level and family income; for the 2012-2013 school year, the average voucher was $4,091.

The program is open to families earning up to 150 percent of the federal free and reduced price lunch threshold ($63,964 for family of four), or 200 percent ($85,286 for a family of four) if the students have disabilities, according to the Friedman Foundation.

In 2013, the program was expanded to include siblings of voucher students and families living in failing school districts. Students who previously received a tax-credit scholarship from a scholarship granting organization are also eligible for vouchers, and families who rise out of the 150 percent cap can keep their vouchers until they reach 200 percent.

Parents and teachers have different roles in educating children, Chrisler said, and the voucher has helped her play her role.

“Every parent needs to consider … what’s best for their child. I like the fact that I’m able to decide what’s best for him. I’m the one that knows him; I’m the one that knows his needs, and I’m fully capable of working with the teachers,” she said.

“I’m not a teacher,” she said. “There are things I don’t know from a teacher’s perspective, but … I’m the one in the best position to make decisions for what school I think will be best for him.”

Finding a school

Chrisler learned about the school through a summer camp Ford attended there.

“I knew the tuition I could not afford, so I talked to some of the people at St. Joan of Arc, some of the parents, and they talked about how much they liked it and how well their children were doing,” she said. “A friend of mine told me about the voucher program.”

Chrisler looked into the voucher program, not thinking she would qualify, but she did.

“I ended up qualifying, and that’s when I made the change to send him,” she said.

St. Joan of Arc provided a better learning environment, she said, with fewer distractions, more respectful students and teachers able to teach without constant interruption.

Racial diversity was another important factor in her decision. Ford’s public school population was entirely black, she said. St. Joan of Arc is more diverse.

“That’s more representative of the world that we live in. It’s representative of our own family. Our world isn’t 100 percent African-American. Our family isn’t 100 percent African-American. It just wasn’t indicative of the society we live in,” she said.

Ford has attended St. Joan of Arc since fifth grade.

“He’s very personable, so he’s meeting lots of friends, and he doesn’t have the distractions he had at the other school,” she said.

A growing program

When the voucher program was enacted in 2011, just short of 4,000 children participated. In the second year, more than 9,000 did. This year’s program ballooned 20,047 participants.

A March state Supreme Court ruling in favor of the program and some advertising by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice contributed to the jump in numbers, said Robert Enlow, Friedman’s president and CEO.

The Indiana State Teachers Association opposes the voucher program, in part because vouchers are often used to fund religious schools, and because vouchers “drain much-needed resources from public schools,” said Mark Shoup, ISTA spokesperson.

Shoup noted that many voucher-eligible children still attend Indiana’s public schools.

“The vast majority of parents feel that traditional public schools do a good job educating children,” he said.

“Parents should make the best decision for their children, but they should pay for that decision,” he said. “I, as a taxpayer, should not pay for children to attend private religious schools. That’s just not a role for public dollars, for public money.”

Public schools offer great options for students and are well-respected in any Indiana community, he said.

“They are the best hope for the vast majority of children in the state, and all states across the United States,” he said.

The Friedman Foundation has sent mailings to eligible parents informing them of the program and directing them to a website.

“And it works,” Enlow said. “People are responding, and now it’s feeding on itself. The reality is, for parents, typically word of mouth is the best thing anyway.”

The program has been “fantastic,” Chrisler said, though her biggest complaint is that too many parents don’t know about it. Even the paperwork was a simple matter of providing her tax return and singing a couple forms, she said.

“The fact that the voucher allows me to send him to a school that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to send him to — I’m all for that, and I think other parents should have that choice.”

Moving forward

Chrisler said is looking at a few different high schools for her son and is hoping to send him on a solid path for the future.

“In the society that we live in, if you don’t get a good education, you get left behind,” she said. “He wants to go to college. I want him to go to college, and he needs to have that foundation, and get as much as he can in primary school and high school, so that his road into college is a smoother transition.”

Contact Mary C. Tillotson at [email protected]

Part of 126 in the series Educating America
  1. Arizona mom won’t give up on special needs kids, no matter what state says
  2. Reviving a 1970s lawsuit, DOJ would keep black students in failing schools
  3. Relocating sexually abusive teachers would be more difficult under Pennsylvania bill
  4. DOJ backpedals on Louisiana voucher lawsuit
  5. Court says charter schools won’t pay for Atlanta’s pension debts
  6. Biggest education impact from shutdown? Furloughed bureaucrats
  7. Appeals court upholds Arizona school choice program
  8. Indiana’s voucher program expands; diversity a factor in one family’s choice of school
  9. ‘Vouchers don’t do much good for students’ claim is false
  10. NYC mayor’s race could affect school choice
  11. Vermont public school goes independent, raises ire from state bureaucracy
  12. Arizona education savings accounts aren’t vouchers, study says
  13. Legal institute fights Alabama union’s attempt to repeal school tax credit
  14. Experts: School choice improves education in public schools
  15. SC school-choice program helps special needs kids, could expand
  16. DOJ wants Louisiana parents out of voucher lawsuit
  17. U.S. House passes bill to prevent ‘passing the trash’
  18. ‘Non-traditional’ journalists barred from viewing tax-funded test results early
  19. New center hopes to help charter schools help kids with special needs
  20. Charter school advocate to Philadelphia schools: Listen to parents
  21. $45 million not enough for Philadelphia teachers’ union
  22. Study: Rhode Islanders support school choice
  23. Study: Choice would help failing Chicago schools
  24. Scholarships could lift SC school dedicated to real-life, hands-on learning
  25. Parents make good school choices, study says
  26. Divisive charter school reform bill headed toward vote in PA
  27. In Louisiana school voucher lawsuit, DOJ changes gears
  28. Opponents sue Washington to overturn charter school law
  29. School choice proponents’ challenge? Educating parents
  30. Judge: Federal oversight may not hamper school voucher program
  31. PA lawmakers push to amend tight teacher furlough policies
  32. College ready: A Milwaukee inner-city school success story
  33. Proposed economic furloughs could slay sacred cow of seniority in Pennsylvania schools
  34. What is Massachusetts doing right?
  35. Goldwater to appeal Louisiana school voucher decision
  36. Want to end poverty? Educate the kids
  37. Breakdown in Philly schools not only about the money
  38. North Carolina scholarship program on firm legal footing, attorney argues
  39. Philadelphia school district threatens charters
  40. Belief in student ability key to success at Milwaukee charter school
  41. Three things to know about Philadelphia’s school budget: Debt, pensions and safety
  42. Choosing to sue: Here’s a look at some 2013 lawsuits involving school choice
  43. Philly charter schools outperform district counterparts
  44. California students sue state over ineffective teachers
  45. Study: Public supports parent choice in education
  46. Under new management, Philly Renaissance Schools show growth
  47. New Orleans tops school choice index
  48. AZ to consider four school-choice expansion bills
  49. Florida family ‘blessed’ to be apart of scholarship program
  50. PA lawmakers put education at top of agenda in election year
  51. Louisiana: Feds ‘more interested in skin color than … education’
  52. Charter school for Philadelphia foster children will not be renewed
  53. Governor ties proposed PA education funding to targeted grants
  54. WA’s first charter school serves children, families of ‘extreme poverty’
  55. Vermont attempts to take independence from independent schools
  56. Philly stumbles on way to simplifying enrollment system
  57. Plan for Philly schools keeps charters in check
  58. Missouri ballot initiative would increase funding for public, private schools
  59. New York charter school focuses on family, community
  60. NC school vouchers on hold
  61. WI voucher bill would help special needs students denied open enrollment
  62. Philadelphia schools will end another year in red
  63. PA universities expect state, students to pick up tab on rising tuition
  64. Two ESA bills get House support in AZ
  65. Thousands rally to support New York charter schools
  66. California’s defense begins in Vergara trial
  67. Accountability or overregulation? Charter supporters split over Minnesota bill
  68. PA considers empowering universities to authorize charter schools
  69. Bill would make Florida students eligible for scholarships
  70. To test or not to test? Florida school choice proponents split
  71. Philly school district broke, but the pay is good
  72. Philadelphia charter school sues public school district
  73. Colorado Supreme Court to hear school voucher case
  74. Vermont to reconsider education funding formula
  75. Arizona Supreme Court allows school choice program to stand
  76. Massachusetts charter school bill revived
  77. Quality schools matter more than racial integration, black leaders say
  78. FL again takes up school-choice bill
  79. Choice Media’s videocast tackles host of education issues
  80. Ending teacher seniority rules beyond Philly requires legislative action
  81. New website helps Detroit parents choose schools
  82. Philly schools caught on funding merry-go-round
  83. Louisiana bill would coordinate school choice programs
  84. New D.C. charter school lottery eases but doesn’t eliminate waiting lists
  85. Federal bill attempts to help replicate high-quality state charter schools
  86. Philadelphia schools awaiting taxes from city, state
  87. ACLU alleges discrimination in 138 NJ districts
  88. MN anti-bullying bill could have unintended consequences
  89. Mississippi’s special needs bill to return next year
  90. Illinois considers three-year ban on virtual charter schools
  91. Violent Philly high school source of worry
  92. Auditors examining troubled Philadelphia school district
  93. Civil liberties organization sues to overturn anti-bullying law
  94. Legal conflict over teacher seniority in Philly heats up
  95. Academics, culture help mom choose private school
  96. PA cyber charter schools could be funded by state, not districts
  97. Arizona expands school choice program
  98. The sticky statistic of statewide charter school performance in PA
  99. Louisiana offers new vocational technical program
  100. Benefits are driving high personnel costs in Philadelphia schools
  101. Educators look to grow with expanding Hispanic demographic
  102. Philadelphia flexes muscle over charter schools
  103. Philly school district facing another bleak budget
  104. Andre Agassi dedicates Indianapolis charter school
  105. For PA and neighboring states, school spending and graduation rates don’t add up
  106. At long last, PA school buses could be getting a boost
  107. Arizona charter schools need funding fix, proponents say
  108. Progress reports for Philadelphia schools show uneven achievement
  109. Teachers union opposes ‘Bad Teachers’
  110. Governor’s plans to boost education funding falls short
  111. Georgia’s school-choice program draws legal challenge
  112. Missouri parents want more choice in education
  113. U.S. lawmakers to consider charter school bill
  114. Florida’s school choice expansion awaits governor’s signature
  115. PA charter schools may see drop in funding with new special education formula
  116. In Nevada, your child’s school records could cost $10K
  117. AG, lawmakers propose similar updates to PA charter school rules
  118. NC school voucher program gets temporary green light
  119. Philly school district’s lack of transparency frustrates families
  120. Bullying motivates many parents to home-school, attorney says
  121. Philadelphia City Council gambles to fund schools
  122. PA Supreme Court pushes forward charter school’s lawsuit against Philly
  123. Feds consider joining school choice game
  124. Florida’s new school choice law likely to spark others
  125. California teacher reform lawsuit sparks copycat, more likely to come
  126. School choice is popular — when parents know about it
  127. What can private schools learn from charters?


Mary was formerly a national education reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • Warren Greshes

    When teachers’ unions speak they depend on two things: 1) that the average person is too stupid to know that the union is lying, and 2) that people are too apathetic to care.
    Mr. Shoup, the union spokesman, claims vouchers are bad because they’re going to religious schools; lie! The vouchers go to the parents who CHOOSE to send their children to religious schools: much like many Pell Grant recipients CHOOSE to use their grants at church affiliated universities.
    Mr. Shoup also claims “vouchers drain much needed resources from public schools:” Big Lie!
    The average $$$$ amount of the vouchers is $4,096. Public Schools are funded by dollars per student. The state of Indiana spent $9,370 per student in public schools in 2011, according to the department of education. So if a student takes a voucher, leaves the public school system for private school, the public school which received $9,370 for that student only has to give back $4,096. My question Mr. Shoup is: where does the other $5,274 go? Obviously not into the classroom, otherwise parents wouldn’t be screaming for more vouchers.
    As Lincoln said Mr. Shoup, “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”