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Incoming Indiana schools chief dropping out of voucher suit

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Incoming state school Superintendent Glenda Ritz says she intends to remove herself as a plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks to overturn the state's popular school voucher program.

Ritz, a school librarian, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she would drop out of the legal challenge after a state Supreme Court hearing set for Wednesday and before she takes office Jan. 14.

The Democrat defeated Republican Superintendent Tony Bennett in the Nov. 6 election after campaigning against reform policies including the school voucher program, which opponents say undermines public education.

Ritz says she is pledged to uphold state law as the new state superintendent, and remaining part of the suit would present a conflict of interest.

But she says she still believes the current program is unconstitutional.

Enrollment in the nation's largest school voucher program has more than doubled since last year.

The Indiana Department of Education said Tuesday that more than 9,300 families have signed up for vouchers for the 2012-13 school year. That compares with about 3,900 who took part in the program's first year.

Families that take part in the School Choice Scholarship Program receive tax money to help pay the cost of private school. Under the program, vouchers can cover up to 90 percent of the cost of tuition, depending on a family's income. The actual value of the vouchers is less than the amount of tax money a public school would have received for that student.

The maximum value for students in grades one through eight is $4,500.

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