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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ind. Gov't. - "Voucher success could cause new choice problems"

That is the heading to Lesley Weidenbener's column today for the Louisville Courier Journal. A quote:

When the General Assembly authorized vouchers two years ago, educators estimated that there were some 20,000 available slots in private schools. Since then, a few have announced expansions or new locations.

But private school operators told lawmakers this year that without boosts in the voucher amounts, they can’t afford to build more schools. Andrew Hart, director of the Oaks Academy in Indianapolis, told a Senate committee that his school already has a waiting list.

“There are more families that wish to enroll their children than we have capacity for,” Hart said in April. He told lawmakers that the voucher — which had been capped at $4,500 for elementary school — has been too low to cover all the costs of educating a student and therefore discourages expansion to make more room.

The General Assembly voted to raise the cap to $4,700 for the upcoming school year and to $4,800 for fall 2014. Still, Hart said the cost for one year of education at the Oaks Academy is $9,000 per student, which he said helps to pay for small class sizes and competitive salaries for teachers.

And the Oaks Academy isn’t alone. Many private schools charge tuition that’s significantly higher than the vouchers they accept — and higher than the per-student funding the state gives to public schools.

Private school leaders argue those public schools also receive funding for buildings and buses from property taxes, money that’s not available to private schools. And it’s unlikely the General Assembly will give them any of that cash.

That means the voucher program could be on a collision course with financial reality. Once existing private school slots are filled, the state could be facing new questions about whether parents really do have a choice — a dilemma that already exists in some smaller or rural communities where private schools are less available.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 23, 2013 06:48 PM
Posted to Indiana Government