Indiana OKs broad voucher bill

The nation’s most sweeping school voucher program — with tuition aid for low- and middle-income families — is now law in Indiana. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill today, along with another bill expanding charter schools.

Parents can choose to use vouchers at private schools that accept state regulation, including religious schools. As family income rises to $60,000 for a family of four, the voucher’s value will go down.

Other voucher systems across the country are limited to lower-income households, children with special needs or those in failing schools.

Indiana’s program would be open to a much larger pool of students, including those already in excellent schools. Indiana’s program will be limited to just 7,500 students for the first year and 15,000 in the second, a fraction of the state’s about 1 million students. But within three years, there will be no limit on the number of children who could enroll.

Indiana will save money on voucher students: Vouchers for elementary and middle school students are capped at $4,500 and no voucher will equal funding for public-school students.

According to Rick Hess, 60 percent of Indiana schoolchildren will be eligible for a voucher worth up to 90 percent of public education costs. The student must attend a year of public school to qualify for a voucher.

The bill also gives a $1,000 tax deduction for private-school tuition or the costs of homeschooling. That’s expected to cut revenues by $3 million.

While most choice advocates are celebrating, Cato’s Adam Schaeffer argues the law is a “strategic defeat for educational freedom” because it greatly expands state regulation of participating private schools.

To qualify for vouchers, schools will have to administer state exams and submit data on students’ progress, admit students by lottery and “provide good citizenship instruction” that stresses respecting authority, the property of others, the student’s parents and home, the student’s self and “the rights of others to have their own views and religious beliefs.”

What does this mean for religious private schools teaching that one can only be saved by belief in Jesus Christ?

Private schools that refuse to be regulated will risk losing most of their students,   Schaeffer writes.

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  1. Soapbox0916 says:

    I am guessing that most people here have not had to work with Governor Daniels. I have mixed feelings about Daniels. I have some very serious concerns about Daniels being able to put in the proper structure in place to actually implement school vouchers. I have some insight in to how Daniels actually manages or unfortunately doesn’t manage.

    This is the personal perspective of someone who formerly worked for state government under the Daniels administration, I admit I was a peon way down, but I still worked with his staff in the Governor’s office quite a bit because of the type of job that I had, I worked with rules and legislation as a rulewriter.

    Daniels is very good at big picture, extremely general stuff, but I am honestly concerned that Daniels does not understand details well enough for this to succeed. I don’t say that lightly. It is like Daniels can see the forest from the trees, but Daniels forgets that trees need leaves or doesn’t care enough that trees have leaves. It seems like most people struggle with the big picture, but Daniels is the opposite, he struggles with the details.

    Most politicians leave the government workers alone just enough so that government workers can get some things done. I still hear the frustrations from those that work under Daniels administration. Daniels has a habit of getting in the way of the people that know what they are doing when it comes to the details, way worse than typical politicians. So I hope that Daniels leaves the people that can figure out how to implement this voucher program alone enough in order to get it done right.

    I am a huge fan of vouchers and I live in Indiana so I am very excited. Don’t get me wrong, I very much want this voucher program to be a huge success, but my worries is that the implementation will get screwed up, or worse, problems with implementation of the vouchers will be used by critics of vouchers and therefore keep other states from implementing vouchers. This could be a model for other states to follow or an implementation fail.

  2. Cardinal Fang says:

    “Indiana will save money on voucher students: Vouchers for elementary and middle school students are capped at $4,500 and no voucher will equal funding for public-school students.”

    But is this actually true? I take it the *average* per pupil funding is greater than $4500. But will the average per voucher student be greater than $4500? An individual public school student doesn’t cost the average amount. She costs more, because she’s a special needs student, or less, because she isn’t. If only the students who cost less get vouchers– because the voucher-accepting schools don’t handle expensive special-needs students– then Indiana won’t in fact save money on voucher students. Especially since it is also offering a costly tax deduction for private school tuition.

    How is this not just a $4500+ gift to parents who wanted to send their kids to expensive private schools anyway?

    From reading this blog, I’ve come to support some voucher programs. But not this one.

  3. Mark Roulo says:

    Indiana seems to spend ~6K per student at the district level (so, probably close to $8K once you consider state level spending … I’m going by how California does things … which may be a mistake).

    Unless there are lots of special needs students or they cost multiples more than the average student, I don’t think Indiana will find that these vouchers cost money.

    Unless these students weren’t going to go to the public schools in the first place. But this holds true for any voucher, no?

  4. I’m ok with state “control” over places where the taxpayers’ money is spent. The limits on that control–*that* is the thorny issue.

  5. I’m not sure how many private schools will be suddenly accessible with a $4500 voucher. I’m sure there are some that will be made affordable, but many have to cost more like $8-10k/student. I”m in the northeast, where prices are higher, but average private school costs run more like $20k. Many private schools do not want to accept state regulation–testing, providing services for special needs, etc. I don’t think there will be a huge loss of students for many of those schools.

  6. Laura— this will make most Catholic and Lutheran schools free for most families (and most of these schools already administer the state tests, etc. etc.)

  7. tim-10-ber says:

    I don’t see how this will save the state money unless the state is willing to make the tough decision to consolidate schools and classrooms to shrink regardless of how many kids take the vouchers and how many schools they come from.

    I say this as charter schools in Nashville are anything but budget neutral. There are 2000 students out of 76000 in charter schools but the district keeps asking for money because…they have not made the tough decision to consolidate schools and/or increase classroom sizes to compensate for the 2K that have left. The number is charter schools is expected to double by the ’12-’13 school year.

    I am not in favor of providing additional funding for government schools when they are not making the tough decisions to make charter schools (or vouchers) neutral. If they make it neutral that is fine.

  8. In addition to threatening private schools’ freedom, voucher pose another problem, tuition inflation.

    Let’s say parents pay $4,500 for a typical Catholic school in Indiana. Year 1 of the voucher program is awesome. The voucher covers 100% of the tuition. But the school administration says, “Heh, these parents were willing to pay $4,500 before the voucher program, we don’t have to limit our tuition increases to whatever percent the voucher value goes up each year.”

    So Year 2, the voucher is for $4,700, but the school’s tuition is now $5,000. Still a great deal, right? The voucher covers 94% of the tuition. But each year the school raises the tuition more than the annual increase in the voucher value. Why not? The school need a new gym, the teachers need more pay, etc. By Year 10, the voucher only covers 40% of the tuition. The “free” money from the voucher program decreases the school’s incentive to limit tuition increases.

    Also, by year 10 both the school and the parents are trapped. The school depends on the voucher program to fund a good portion of the school’s budget. The parents can’t afford the school’s tuition without the voucher money.

    Now not only has the tuition skyrocketed, but the government has even more leverage to impose whatever conditions it sees fit.

  9. Wolfclothier says:

    Just another shot at the unions and public education. I spent two year starting and working in a Charter school. No magic bullets there, small success stories, many failures, unrealistic expectations.

    The voucher program in Milwaukee has shown itself to be a shame in many cases. The voucher kids are doing not better than regular students in most cases. Hmmmm

    Save money? The camel has just stuck its nose under the tent, wait for the rest of it to get in.

    Giving Govt. money to schools that presently can, and it is their right, descriminate by race, color, credd, physical ability, or any other reason is, I would hope illegal.

    Where will Special Needs costs be factored in? Well both the voucher schools and the regular schools have to operate by exactly the same laws? I would watch this carefully for many of our state and national deals with privatization have been fiascos with boat loads of money evaporating.

    We need school reform but IMO vouchers and the kibuke dances that we are doing in public schools in the name of reform are destined to fail. We have one of the shortest school years in the industrialized world, one of the shortest days, we still use a century and a half factory modle that ignores learning theory. The reforms do little more than put another program in place and waste teachers valuable class time in senseless meetings.

    If we really want to reform our schools we need to first get rid of the factories built to make model Ts because they will never produce Corvettes or Mustangs. Address our assinine school year which guarantees large learning losses with our 9-3 schedule. Get rid of grades entirely after Kindergarten, let each student advance at his or her own learning rate.

    Vouchers are a sham, nothing less. We need to quit the bluster and blunder ane realign our schools using learning theory and learning rates as our guides.

  10. Not entirely sure how I feel about the vouchers, but it all seems to be part of the plan. Just another way for the government to creep into the private schools and make certain demands on them in order to get funding. I choose to send my kids to private schools to get a Christian education and I fear that little by little that will be taken away. And why would I be required to send my child to a public school for one year before I could receive a voucher?? To pay my debt to society by risking my child’s education by the crappy school system we live in or to get them expelled because they want to wear a cross necklace…I think not!