Nearly 4,000 Hoosier students are using state-funded vouchers to attend private schools, according to the latest data from the Indiana Department of Education.
The program, which gives students an average of $4,500 from the state to apply toward private-school tuition, was created this year by the Indiana General Assembly. The Legislature placed an enrollment cap this year of 7,500 and will raise the cap next year to 15,000.
After that, there will be no cap on the program, which gives it the potential to be the largest voucher program in the United States. The program is limited, however, to students from low- to moderate-income households who have previously attended public schools.
There are more than 1 million students in K-12 public schools in Indiana, with nearly 100,000 in private schools, according to data from the Department of Education.
A total of 3,919 students received vouchers for the 2011-12 school year, up from the 3,200 who had received them as of late August—the last time the Department of Education reported the statistics. More than 250 private schools were approved to accept vouchers, and the biggest beneficiaries so far have been Catholic schools.
The students using vouchers came from 185 different school districts, out of about 350 total statewide. Eighty-five percent of the students come from families whose household incomes qualify them for free or reduced lunch, according to the Department of Education. Just over 30 percent of students are from rural and suburban Indiana, and more than half of the students represent minority households.
“Demographics do not determine a child’s ability to grow academically and should not determine the educational opportunities offered to any student,” said Tony Bennett, Indiana’s secretary of public instruction, in a prepared statement.