Indiana’s fast-growing voucher program cost the state $40 million for the 2014-15 school year.
That’s up from $16 million from last year, according to a report released by the Indiana Department of Education.
Indiana’s voucher program, which launched in 2011, has grown faster than any other state’s, and it’s among the largest private school choice programs in the country. Vouchers allow eligible students to use taxpayer dollars toward tuition at private schools, even those affiliated with a religion.
The state’s education department is required to prepare regular reports on the savings generated by the voucher program so that those savings can be distributed back to public schools. Although the voucher program initially saved the state money in its first two years, it has cost the state money the last two.
Over the course of those four years, state policymakers have been steadily expanding eligibility for the program, and now roughly half the state’s 1.1 million school children are allowed to apply for vouchers, as I wrote in a February story for Education Week:
State lawmakers raised the threshold on income eligibility. A family of four with an annual household income of up to $67,200 would be eligible under most circumstances. For families with a child with disabilities, their annual income can be even higher. The legislators also removed the cap on the number of students who can participate and made vouchers available to students who were already enrolled in private schools. In 2013, a new state law made students zoned to schools graded F in the state's accountability system eligible for vouchers even if they had never attended their local district school."
Now nearly 30,000 students are using vouchers, and fewer of them are attending a public school first, as you can see in this graph from the report.
But generous eligibility criteria aren’t the only factors driving the program’s growth.
The fast expansion can also be traced to the voucher program’s relatively speedy jaunt through the court system after its legality was challenged, and policies adopted by some of the state’s private schools prior to the program’s launch. To find out exactly how, you can check out this story I wrote on why Indiana’s voucher program is growing so fast.
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Graph from the Indiana Department of Education, Office of School Finance
A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.