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Voucher experience positive for one local high school student

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Dayana Vazquez-Buquer was excelling at Greenwood High School and had no interest in transferring elsewhere when her mom first mentioned a new state voucher program meant for families like hers.

The vivacious 16-year-old balked. Her friends were at Greenwood. Her grades were good. And as she prepared for her junior year, Dayana didn’t feel any need to transfer to a new school.

But her mom – encouraged by a priest – insisted that she check out Roncalli High School, a private, Catholic school on the south side of Indianapolis. One visit was all it took.

Now, several months into her first year at Roncalli, Dayana has no regrets about her decision to transfer and lauds the General Assembly for creating the voucher program.

“It opens doors that you would probably never even see that were there,” Dayana said. “You have an opportunity to do better in life and have a great chance to not just get good grades and all that, but actually get to a point, get to a goal, by those grades.”

Dayana is among 3,919 students from low- to moderate-income Indiana families who qualified for an Indiana Choice Scholarship this year.
Of those, 86 percent were moving from a public school to a private one.

Some have since returned to their public schools. Others, like Dayana, are thriving.

“My education has definitely changed because my GPA went up, and I’m really happy about it,” Dayana said. “I now have this sense of achievement. I know I’m trying hard, and I understand it now. I’m not just going through the motions anymore.”

Dayana’s family emigrated from Mexico when she was 6 years old because of her mother’s job. Her father is now a server at two restaurants and her mother stays at home.

Dayana and her sister, 7-year-old Ashley, qualified for full vouchers, which use public money to pay 90 percent of the cost of private-school tuition and are available to families of four with a household income of $41,348 or less.

Students in a family of four with incomes between $41,349 and $62,022 can receive a voucher worth 50 percent of the tuition.

Ashley attends Our Lady of the Greenwood Catholic School. Dayana said she’s thrilled her younger sister is getting an earlier start at a private school, which she hopes will provide a better learning environment.

“I think at public school, you get to see things and hear things about life that you shouldn’t be hearing at that age,” Dayana said. “By her going to a private, religious school, I definitely think that’s going to be better for her. She won’t have to put up with all of that stuff. She won’t have to mature faster than she should.”

But Dayana said the advantages at private schools are not just about what you won’t find but about what you will as well. Colleges come to recruit at Roncalli, clubs and after-school activities are diverse, and the atmosphere is nurturing.

There’s less chaos and more focus on education, she said. “It hurts me to say that,” Dayana acknowledged. She still thinks of the Greenwood schools as her home.

But Roncalli, she said, is “more like a big family.”

Still, Dayana said she wouldn’t necessarily recommend at transfer to all students at a public school.

“I think it depends on the person,” she said. “I really want to succeed in life. Some people should stay in a public school, though. If they were able to come to a private school, maybe that would change for them, but there are some kids that really just don’t care about their education.”

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  • Why doesn't this bother anyone?
    Let's see...she was excelling at a public high school, and a priest said she could get a voucher to attend a private Catholic high school, where she is also excelling. And her parents have to pay that extra 10% that the voucher doesn't cover, which they weren't paying at public school. Hmm...could the priest have had any financial motivation, any at all, to encourage her to transfer to a religious school? Nah, certainly not.

    And is nobody concerned that so much state money--OUR money--is directly supporting a religious institution?

    I think Dayna could have excelled anywhere--public schools clearly weren't failing her. If this horribly misguided voucher system must exist, let's take steps to make sure the funds are truly serving the students who are the most at risk instead of the diocese, or the pastorate, or whoever runs these religious schools. Let's have tighter criteria for "failing schools" and make sure the students transferring aren't the ones like Dayna.
  • Family income levels
    The household income notwithstanding, isn't the fundamental point of the voucher program to help low-income families from underperforming public school districts to increase their access to the good ones? Is the Greenwood public school system remotely close to being rated "underperforming"? So in this case, didn't the taxpayer dollars simply allow the Vazquez-Buquer family to transfer from one good school to another?
  • Read between the lines
    The student states that she was not trying, just going through the motions. When is student achievement going to be the accountability of the student? The teachers ars teaching both public and private but it is the students that are trying and or not that is the difference. Politicians don't want to but the blame for student failure where it belongs- on the parents before students reach school and the student effort or lack of it when they get thereon
  • SIGH
    Frank, Frank, Frank.... Your post is so full of NEA and ISTA propaganda it's not funny. PLEASE actually READ the article, at least,before commenting. A family of 4 with an income of $41k/yr is NOT "rich and well-off"! Did you notice that the father is working TWO JOBS??? And everyone pays into the funds that the vouchers are drawn from - what the program does is LEVEL the "playing field" between public and private schools. The state allocates X number of dollars per student; what the public schools are crying about is that they're no longer getting the "profit" from the students' parents who have been paying TWICE for their children's education - once to the state and again for the private schools' tuition. No, this is a long-overdue adjustment - ever since the IRS started disallowing private school tuition deductions.
    • choice
      Interesting view! I came from and remain a middle class income family that grew up in the parochial private school setting!we were certainly not rich and my parents sacrificed much for us to attend pirivate schools! it was there choice then and my choice now!the big picture Frank is that private schools families pay the same taxes you do in the same school district and pay private tuition on top of that!So in essence we are subsidizing the public school system while we CHOOSE to pay for private school tuition! I think a big thank you would do just fine!
      • Really?
        How lucky for IBJ, a "newspaper" that actively promotes the school voucher system in Indiana, could find an article from another news source to reprint and continue to promote the misconceptions about the voucher system.

        Here's a suggestion: Let Roncalli take in 2,000 young people instead of only a select few, and then let's see how well they do. I'll believe it when I see it.

        This article is pure propaganda.
      • My 2 Cents
        It does not take a Education Expert to understand what is taking place with this state's voucher program. A way has been developed to take Public Education money and spend it on Private Education for the rich and well off. There is always several good stories for those in favor to spin for their own benefit. The truth is the majority of Public Schools and children who need the funding will not get it due to the rich and well off stealing it to fund their kids education. The foolish continues and Governor Daniels showers in the shameful act that he assumes is far!

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