SOUTH BEND (AP) — The number of Indiana students applying to receive vouchers allowing them to use state money to pay for private schools has more than doubled for a second consecutive year.
The Indiana Department of Education reports it received 20,047 applications for vouchers for the 2013-14 school year. Department spokesman Daniel Altman say education officials won’t know how many of those who applied actually used the vouchers, where they are from and what schools they chose to go to. He said most who apply for the vouchers usually use them.
In the three years Indiana has had a school vouchers, the program has grown from 3,919 when it first started in 2011-12 months after the General Assembly approved the nation’s broadest private school voucher plan, to 9,324 last year.
Betsy Wiley, president of School Choice Indiana, said she was surprised by the number of applicants this year, saying she expected it to be closer to 17,000.
“I think it indicates there is a strong desire for choice by Hoosier families, particularly by those of low and moderate incomes,” she said. “I think it is also clear the vast majority of families and students are being well served in their traditional public schools. I believe 20,000 students is great, but we have a million students in school.”
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz is a voucher opponent and has started program aimed at keeping students in public schools. Voucher opponents say the program hurts public schools by draining state funds from them.
“Superintendent Ritz had been a very strong advocate for public schools throughout Indiana. She was a public school teacher for 37 years before she had this job. She believes in public schools,” Altman said.
How much money a student receives depends on the family income and the school district they live in, giving a maximum $4,700 for elementary school students.