By Brian Washington
Supporters of Indiana’s voucher program—the largest of its kind in the nation—justified draining badly needed tax dollars away from public schools by asserting that students could use vouchers to attend better private schools.
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However, a new report is showing that is not the case. According to records from the Indiana Department of Education, students receiving vouchers are choosing private and/or religious schools that are no better than the public schools they left.
In fact, records show the following:
- About one in five students who received a voucher this year is using it at a school rated C, D, or F by the state’s accountability system;
- About 300 of the state’s 9,324 students getting vouchers chose private schools with an “F” rating; and
- About 21 percent of voucher students left schools with an “A” or “B” rated school district to attend private schools.
Private schools that accept voucher students must participate in state testing and receive grades as part of Indiana’s accountability system.
State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, who is a vocal opponent of using public tax dollars to fund private schools, says it’s a bad way to spend the public’s money.
“Public dollars should go to public schools,” said Ritz to a local newspaper reporter.
“I don’t think that’s a good use of taxpayer dollars to send children to poorer performing schools than the public schools they were attending.”
The new information coincides with recent votes in the Indiana House and Senate to expand the state’s voucher program. Last Friday, April 26, lawmakers in both chambers voted to make more students eligible to receive a voucher.
If Governor Mike Pence signs off on the legislature’s changes, students who live in a district with an F-rated public school would also be eligible for a voucher, and the siblings of students currently getting a voucher would receive immediate eligibility.
Under the current system, students now have to spend a year attending a public school and meet certain family income requirements before becoming eligible for a voucher.
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