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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Vouchers help religious schools

Church-affiliated schools — and the parents who value a religious education — are big winners in Indiana’s voucher program, writes Cory Turner on NPR.

Since 2011, the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program has funded private-school tuition for  low-income students. Most choose religious schools.

Behind a statue of Jesus are the offices of Fort Wayne Community Schools. Photo: Acacia Squires/NPR

In 2013, under then Gov. Mike Pence, legislators authorized vouchers for children who’d never attended public school, writes Turner. “Indiana’s statewide voucher program is now the largest of its kind in the country,” enrolling about 3 percent of students statewide.

A full voucher is worth 90 percent of what the state would spend for a public-school education. A family of four can earn no more than $45,000 annually to qualify. Students whose parents earn up to $67,000 can qualify for a half-voucher.

White voucher students are up from 46 percent that first year to 60 percent today, and the share of black students has dropped from 24 percent to 12 percent. Recipients are also increasingly suburban and middle class. A third of students do not qualify for free or reduced-price meals.

“For schools that were financially strapped — and, with Catholic school enrollment plunging in recent years, there are many of those — vouchers have been a lifeline,” writes Turner.

Kayla Massy-Charles lives near a large public high school with a C rating. Her single mother, Pauline, chose a small, B-rated Catholic high school, Providence Cristo Rey, that serves low-income, minority students. She pays $20 a month. The rest is covered by the school’s work-study program and the state voucher.

The education reform “movement has split between those who want to use choice to improve public schools and others, like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who want to go further by allowing tax money to flow to private schools through vouchers, government-funded scholarships or corporate tax credits,” reports Education Week.

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