Indiana private school voucher program may expand

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A bill pending before the Indiana legislature would put private school vouchers within the reach of thousands of additional Hoosier families.

The proposed changes would allow foster children and special education students to qualify for a voucher without first having to spend two semesters in a public school. The same goes for children of income qualifying veterans and for children who have a brother or sister who has already qualified to receive a voucher.
“If there's one child who is already on voucher, you know having those siblings, come into the school without having to spend a year in the public school,” said Peggy Schadler, Principal of Our Lady of Hungary Catholic School in South Bend. “That’s (would be) a wonderful part of that program.”

More than 9,000 Indiana students now attend private schools with the help of public vouchers at a cost to the State of Indiana of $36 million. The proposed changes would add $21 million to the mix, according to an estimate by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.

“This new H.B. 1003 throws all that out and starts paying for vouchers for students that are already in private schools,” said Dr. Vic Smith with the coalition. “That’s a whole different level and the biggest group of those is special education students, disabled students that are in private schools will get a voucher. We figure that there are 4,000 of those students currently in private schools and so we figured out that would be about $12 million of new taxpayer money going for that purpose.”

At Our Lady of Hungary, more than half the students now get state help with tuition.

“We have 208 students, 105 of them are Choice students (Choice Scholarship). It’s been very successful here, we’ve had great results, the kids are wonderful.”

A rally on behalf of voucher expansion was held in Indianapolis today, and Governor Mike Pence spoke to the crowd.

The house passed voucher expansion bill is now pending in the senate.

“This is a bad move for Indiana's public schools, this would further transfer money away from public schools and the public schools have suffered,” said Vic Smith

Voucher opponents will hold their own rally at the Statehouse on March 19th.

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