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Indiana voucher program sees 2,200 students enlist

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Indiana's new school voucher program has admitted more than 2,200 grade-school students who will receive state-funded scholarships to attend religious or private schools this school year, the Department of Education said Monday.

The program, which was part of the broad education overhaul the Legislature passed this spring and which is being challenged in court, has accepted 2,230 students since it began accepting applications last month, the Education Department said. The amount of scholarship aid students receive is based on family income.

"In just one month, thousands of Hoosier families have signed up to participate, demonstrating tremendous interest in this new opportunity. We couldn't be happier with the progress," Indiana Schools Superintendent Tony Bennett told The Associated Press.

The state has approved about 250 religious or private schools for the program, making them eligible to enroll voucher students.

A group of teachers and religious leaders has filed a lawsuit challenging the voucher program, claiming it violates the state constitution by providing public money to private schools that can give preference to students based on test scores, disabilities and religious faith. The Indiana State Teachers Association is backing the challenge.

A Marion County judge is expected to hear an argument Thursday about whether to grant an injunction blocking the voucher program.

The number of students who have applied for the vouchers shows "there was no great public outcry for a voucher program," said Nate Schnellenberger, president of the teacher's association.

Schnellenberger said recent experiences with courts blocking parts of controversial new state laws blocking funding for abortion clinics and cracking down on illegal immigration make him hopeful and injunction will be granted blocking the voucher program.

The voucher program takes a portion of the money that would have gone to a public school system and converts into a scholarship for use at a private school that qualifies with the state.

If a student qualifies for the federal free or reduced lunch program the state will take 90 percent of the per-student average that would have been paid to the school system and convert it into a scholarship. If the family earns more than that, the state will convert half of that per-student average into a scholarship.

For instance, the state sends $7,552 per student to Indianapolis — students in the Indianapolis Public School system who qualify will either get $6,796 or $3,776 to attend private school.

Up to 7,500 students can receive scholarships this school year and up to 15,000 can receive vouchers next year.

Close to 400 students from Indianapolis Public Schools will receive vouchers; another 245 from Fort Wayne and 211 from South Bend will get the scholarships. Roughly 83 percent of the 2,230 students who will get vouchers come from the lowest income tier and will get the 90-percent scholarship.

"It eliminates the argument that anyone in the General Assembly had the intent of funding private education for rich people," Bennett said.

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  • Awful program
    When I visited our daughter's private school early this year, the class size was 15 with 2 teachers and they said enrollment was falling because of the economy. I just took her to orientation and the class was jammed with about 25-30 kids on this welfare program. Don't kid yourself, this is NOT a voucher, it's a welfare program. So now there's no benefit to sending your kid to private school in Indiana because they'll be in the same setting with a dozen disruptive kids whose parents don't really care but had a free check from the government.
  • AIR CONDITIONING
    Most of the private schools do not have air conditioning and big fancy athletic facilities. I guess the Parents can sue to get amenities installed as these schools have small budgets and high ISTEP scores.

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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.

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