SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The number of Indiana students
applying to receive vouchers allowing them to use state money to pay for
private schools has more than doubled for a second consecutive year.
The Indiana Department of Education reports it received 20,047
applications for vouchers for the 2013-14 school year. Department
spokesman Daniel Altman say education officials won't know how many of
those who applied actually used the vouchers, where they are from and what
schools they chose to go to. He said most who apply for the vouchers
usually use them.
In the three years Indiana has had a school vouchers, the program has
grown from 3,919 when it first started in 2011-12 months after the General
Assembly approved the nation's broadest private school voucher plan, to
9,324 last year.
Betsy Wiley, president of School Choice Indiana, said she was surprised by
the number of applicants this year, saying she expected it to be closer to
"I think it indicates there is a strong desire for choice by Hoosier
families, particularly by those of low and moderate incomes," she said. "I
think it is also clear the vast majority of families and students are
being well served in their traditional public schools. I believe 20,000
students is great, but we have a million students in school."
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz is a voucher
opponent and has started program aimed at keeping students in public
schools. Voucher opponents say the program hurts public schools by
draining state funds from them.
"Superintendent Ritz had been a very strong advocate for public schools
throughout Indiana. She was a public school teacher for 37 years before
she had this job. She believes in public schools," Altman said.
How much money a student receives depends on the family income and the
school district they live in, giving a maximum $4,700 for elementary
Teresa Brown, the Education Department's assistant superintendent of
outreach, said the agency created an outreach division for school
improvement in May aimed at improving schools. Thirteen regional
coordinators are providing technical support by helping schools as they
try to improve.
"Whether that is professional development or helping them analyze data or
if they need a community partner, if they need somebody to help them with
after-school resources," she said. "They're looking at what schools need
to improve student achievement and helping them with that."
Wiley said she doesn't expect to see the number of students applying for
vouchers to continue to double, saying she expects demand to level off and
saying there aren't enough spaces in private schools available. A 2010
study indicated that there were about 22,000 vacant seats available in
private schools in Indiana. She said that number likely has grown as some
schools have expanded the past several years. She said another capacity
study is planned.
John Elcesser, executive director of the Indiana Non-Public Education
Association, said he has not heard of schools having to turn students away
because they are full, but said some are nearing capacity.