Indiana expands school choice, joining other states allowing parents to choose education alternatives.
By Eileen Griffin
Republicans in Indiana won budgetary support for expanded school choice, making the program nearly universal.
The budget including the expansion for vouchers passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Indiana Capital Chronicle reports. The two-year budget in Indiana will now include vouchers for families earning up to 400 percent of the amount required for students to qualify for free or reduced lunch.
The current program includes families up to 300 percent of the amount required to quality for free or reduced lunch. This equates to an approximate income of $154,000 annually for a family of four. The revised program raises that ceiling to approximately $220,000. The revised program also eliminates eight other requirements for eligibility.
The GOP plan would allow families to use this money, in the form of vouchers, to attend private school. A revenue surplus of $1.5 billion provided the funding for the program.
With the expanded eligibility the program is anticipated to grow from 53,300 students to 95,000 by 2025.
, Institute for Quality Education President and CEO Betsy Wiley told the Chronicle that nearly all students will be eligible under this budget.
“We would say it’s universal,” Wiley told the outlet. “When this budget passes, I think Indiana will be the most educational choice-friendly state in the nation, across the board, between private school choice options for all Hoosier families, a robust charter environment, and district-to-district transfers. That literally will make any education available to any student in the state.”
Republicans in Indiana have been progressively advancing the school choice agenda. Early on, in 2011, 4,000 students accessed vouchers, and with expanded funding and eligibility, the number of parents choosing a school other than the government school has continually grown.
“Making every educational option available to every family, you’re now really going to see the ability for families to get their students educated in what they think is the best learning environment for them,” Wiley said. “The barriers are being removed.”
Democrats voting against the expansion say it hurts government-run schools.
“Expanding vouchers to that magnitude is despicable from our perspective,” state Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) told the Chronicle. “I don’t think that the traditional public schools are going to benefit. At this rate, they’re not able to even get inflationary dollars.”
Indiana Gov. Eric J. Holcomb has said he prioritizes education and has worked on improvements in education including raising teacher salaries, The Center Square reports.
In his State of the State address in 2021, Holcomb addressed the need for school choice.
“Parents not only deserve to have options about where they send their child to be educated – after-all, they pay for it – but at the same time, those options shouldn’t come at the expense of the public school system, which educates 90% of Hoosier children,” Holcomb said at the time.
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