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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. These liberals are out of control. They want to drive our economy into the ground and double and triple our electric bills. Sierra Club, stay out of Indy!

  2. These activist liberal judges have gotten out of control. Thankfully we have a sensible supreme court that overturns their absurd rulings!

  3. Maybe they shouldn't be throwing money at the IRL or whatever they call it now. Probably should save that money for actual operations.

  4. For you central Indiana folks that don't know what a good pizza is, Aurelio's will take care of that. There are some good pizza places in central Indiana but nothing like this!!!

  5. I am troubled with this whole string of comments as I am not sure anyone pointed out that many of the "high paying" positions have been eliminated identified by asterisks as of fiscal year 2012. That indicates to me that the hospitals are making responsible yet difficult decisions and eliminating heavy paying positions. To make this more problematic, we have created a society of "entitlement" where individuals believe they should receive free services at no cost to them. I have yet to get a house repair done at no cost nor have I taken my car that is out of warranty for repair for free repair expecting the government to pay for it even though it is the second largest investment one makes in their life besides purchasing a home. Yet, we continue to hear verbal and aggressive abuse from the consumer who expects free services and have to reward them as a result of HCAHPS surveys which we have no influence over as it is 3rd party required by CMS. Peel the onion and get to the root of the problem...you will find that society has created the problem and our current political landscape and not the people who were fortunate to lead healthcare in the right direction before becoming distorted. As a side note, I had a friend sit in an ED in Canada for nearly two days prior to being evaluated and then finally...3 months later got a CT of the head. You pay for what you get...

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