Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #261 – April 19, 2016

Dear Friends,

The new annual report on private school vouchers, officially known as Choice Scholarships, was issued by the Indiana Department of Education on April 14th. It carried a surprising finding:

Despite an additional 3500 students getting tax supported vouchers to attend private schools, the percentage of Indiana students enrolling in private and parochial schools from last year (2014-15) to this year (2015-16) showed absolutely no increase. It was 7.48% both years.

One would think that private school vouchers paid for by the taxpayer would be attracting ever increasing numbers of students to private and parochial schools.

They are not.

One would think that if the taxpayers are paying for roughly 3500 more vouchers at an average cost of at least $4000 per voucher ($14 million), we would see an increase in students and families enrolling in private schools.

We are seeing no such increase.

Instead it can be said that vouchers are propping up the private and religious school enrollment numbers which would otherwise be falling.

As parents made their choices in the intense competition of the school choice marketplace of Indiana, the attractiveness of public schools stood up well this year.

Enrollment Details

Each year in the administration of State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, a detailed report has been issued by the Office of School Finance of the Indiana Department of Education about the Choice Scholarship program. This year’s report was released on April 14th. The IDOE staff is to be commended on a thorough and objective report. The details reveal the following:
  • Of the total number of 1,130,873 students in Indiana in 2015-16, 84,583 attended non-public schools, a total of 7.48%.
  • Of the total of 1,130,312 students in the previous 2014-15 school year, 84,533 attended non-public schools, a total of 7.48%.
  • Yet the taxpayers of Indiana paid for 32,686 vouchers in 2015-16 to boost the non-public school numbers, an increase of 3538 vouchers over the previous year of 2014-15. It was the smallest increase in the five years of the program.
  • At a ballpark average of $4000 per voucher, taxpayers paid out over $14 million dollars more for vouchers this year than in 2014-15.
  • It’s clear now that vouchers are not attracting big new numbers to private and parochial schools but instead are being used to pay the tuition of private school students who have always been in private schools. The choice was made not after trying public schools first but at the outset of the student’s schooling, and now the voucher expansion rules have been changed to figure out a way to have the taxpayers pay the private and religious school bills.
  • To confirm this conclusion, the report found that 52.4% of students receiving vouchers had no record of previously attending an Indiana public school.
  • A year ago in 2014-15, this figure was 50.4%.
  • In the first year of the program, under Governor Daniels’ policy of trying a public school first, this figure was only 9.8% of voucher students with no record of attending an Indiana public school.
  • Clearly the voucher law is now helping a minority of the voucher students follow the original intent getting help to transfer to a private school. The majority of voucher students are now having taxpayers subsidize the private and religious education that had already been chosen.
Governor Pence clearly changed the voucher program to an expensive subsidy for private and religious school education in his massive 2013 voucher expansion law.

The report explains that the program carried a price tag of extra costs to taxpayers of $40 million in 2014-15 and says the 2015-16 total costs will be available in June.

The Future is up to the Voters

After establishing the voucher program in the legendary legislative battle of 2011, vouchers have been given more funding and made easier to get by the General Assembly in 2013, in 2015 and now in 2016.

Do the citizens of Indiana want ever expanding vouchers programs to privatize our public schools bit by bit?

That is a question the voters will answer in the May 3rd primary and in the November general election.

I hope all public education advocates will participate in the vitally important primary and general elections of 2016, our bicentennial year.

Thanks for your support of public education!

Best wishes,

Vic Smith

“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!

ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.

Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!

Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!

Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:

I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.


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