School Vouchers: Indiana Enrollment Soars, Achievement Drags in Louisiana
The number of Indiana schoolchildren using vouchers has jumped this year, according to Indiana House Democrats and The Statehouse File, a Franklin Ind.-based college newspaper.
Overall, 29,146 students across the state are using vouchers to attend a private school compared to 19,809 last year. Rep. Gregory Porter (D) released a statement Friday with the preliminary numbers that argued that the voucher program—and, by extension, Republicans—is hurting regular public schools.
Vouchers, like many education policies, are contentious in Indiana: The state program faced and weathered a legal challenge from the Indiana State Teachers Association last spring. The superintendent of schools, Glenda Ritz, was originally one of the plaintiffs but dropped out of the lawsuit once she was elected. Voucher supporters then tried to take the program out from underneath her oversight but eventually abandoned that effort.
The state recently expanded eligibility for the program, allowing some students already enrolled in private schools to receive vouchers. According to a report released in June by the Indiana Department of Education, that expansion cost the state $16 million dollars for the 2013-2014 school year.
Voucher supporters countered that there were flaws in the report's formula for calculating the program's costs. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, an Indianapolis-based advocacy and research group, released a study in September saying that voucher programs have collectively saved their states $1 billion.
Meanwhile in Louisiana, state education department numbers released Monday morning show that fewer than half of voucher students who took state assessment tests passed, according to The Times-Picayune. But Louisiana's schools chief pointed out that the 44 percent pass rate for 2014 is still higher than in 2010 when only 31 percent of students passed. At that time, only New Orleans schools could participate in the voucher program.
In contrast, The Times-Picayune reports that 69 percent of public school students passed the state assessment tests.