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