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November 29, 2012

PUBLIC FORUM: Columnist wrong about vouchers

— I was disappointed to read Mr. Southern’s latest column talking about Indiana’s voucher program (Pharos-Tribune, Nov. 26), which was filled with very inaccurate information. To begin with, I am confused by the assertion that primarily upper income families are using vouchers. The first requirement to be eligible is that a family’s income must fall below 150 percent of the poverty line. In fact, 81 percent of families in Indiana receiving vouchers fall below the federal poverty line, making the implication that the “upper half” are the ones benefiting from this program profoundly incorrect.   

Mr. Southern proclaims that Hamilton County was particularly excited about the voucher program.  Since they fall within our Diocese, I know each of the five leaders of the largest non-public schools in Hamilton County very well. While these schools represent the largest percentage of total students in our Diocese by county, they make up the smallest percentage of voucher students. Where are the largest concentrations of voucher students found in Indiana? Sixty-six percent come from urban schools with Indianapolis and Gary seeing the largest number of participating students. Forty-eight percent of participating students come from minority households.

Quite simply, Indiana’s voucher program is designed to benefit lower income families by giving them the same educational choices as families with means.

The assertion that state-funded vouchers violate the separation of church and state is an unfortunate argument that has been defeated in every state with a voucher program, as well as in the U.S. Supreme Court. It is no different than when grants go to pay a student’s tuition at a religious-affiliated college, or when Medicare or Medicaid payments are made to religious hospitals. The voucher program does not establish a government-sponsored church; it merely gives families the opportunity to choose the school environment that is the best fit for their family.

In conclusion, it is a mystery to me why some believe that a successful voucher program can only come at the expense of public education. In Cass County, All Saints Catholic School enjoys an excellent working relationship with the area public school corporations. When our school is effective, it benefits each of the county school districts our kids feed into.

I would urge Mr. Southern to more carefully research his information and consider that a quality education system in Indiana includes both successful public and successful non-public schools.  

James McNeany, principal, All Saints Catholic School

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