Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

70 Percent of Indiana Voucher Students Pick Catholic Schools

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

70 Percent of Indiana Voucher Students Pick Catholic Schools

Article excerpt

In just four years, the Indiana Department of Education's figures for enrollment in the state's school voucher program jumped from 3,911 to 29,148. And even though fewer than half of the 315 private schools currently in the voucher program are Catholic, an astonishing 70 percent of the students in the program chose Catholic schools, according to the head of the Indiana Non-Public Education Association,

The voucher program should be an easy sell to Catholics, said John Elcesser, executive director of the association and a former Catholic school superintendent. "Catholics have long taught that parents are the primary teachers and believe that they have an obligation to provide preferential options for the poor."

The growth in enrollment has been "kind of a rocket ride," said Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference. "But the real impact has been on students and their families. They now can choose a school that fits their needs."

Many of Indiana's Catholic schools were on the verge of closing before Indiana initiated its voucher program in 2011.

Despite the program, one Catholic school did close this year, Tebbe said. "It's stabilized some schools, but it's not going to save a school that's not doing its job," he said.

The urban schools in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Gary profited the most, Tebbe said. In Fort Wayne, a new school opened.

Even though some were struggling, the network of Catholic schools existed and were already accredited by the state. They also were given letter grades by the state on the same basis as public schools.

In the Indiana voucher program, a student whose family's income is 150 percent or less of the federal guidelines for free or reduced-price lunches qualifies for up to $4,800 for private school tuition. The state also provides vouchers for students with disabilities. …

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