The number of Indiana students receiving school vouchers grew by 47 percent this school year, to 29,148, under expanded eligibility guidelines, a report released Monday by the Indiana Department of Education showed.
The department's annual report on voucher participation and payments said students receiving vouchers represent 2.6 percent of the total statewide school enrollment and they are eligible to receive nearly $116 million in voucher awards this school year, up from $81 million a year ago.
The Fort Wayne Community Schools had the highest number of students receiving vouchers, 4,036, followed by the Indianapolis Public Schools at 3,018 and the South Bend Community School Corp. at 2,224, the report said.
Three Catholic schools received more than $1.5 million in voucher money: Scecina Memorial in Indianapolis and Bishop Luers and Bishop Dwenger high schools in Fort Wayne, the report said.
Slightly more than half of those receiving vouchers this year have no previous record of attending an Indiana public school in part because of expanded eligibility criteria established by the General Assembly in 2013. The changes made vouchers available to students who had siblings receiving vouchers, those who would otherwise attend a failing public school, and special education students.
Indiana's school voucher program is one of the most expansive in the nation and also one of the fastest growing. It grew from 3,911 students in its first year, 2011-12, to 9,139 the following year and to 19,809 last year. Students' households must meet certain income guidelines to be eligible.
Gov. Mike Pence has proposed lifting the school voucher program's limit on per-student funding, which is now capped at $4,800 per elementary school pupil. House Republicans have included lifting the cap in their budget proposal. The Pence administration has estimated the change will cost $4 million yearly.