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Failing Indiana 'Voucher Schools' May Get a Second Chance

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By guest blogger Lisa Stark

Indiana has one of the largest school voucher programs in the country, with more than 34,000 students this year using public tax dollars to attend private schools. Now a bill that critics say would reduce accountability for voucher schools has passed a Senate panel and is on its way to the full Senate. The bill has already passed the Indiana House.

Under current state law, private schools that accept vouchers are graded by the state—using an A through F scale. If a voucher school received a failing grade—a D or F—for two years in a row, it is banned from accepting new voucher students until it raises academic performance. The bill, sponsored by Republican state Representative Robert Behning, would allow those schools to ask the state school board for a reprieve if most of their students show improvement. The bill also allows private schools to immediately begin accepting voucher students, rather than waiting a year.

Those who support vouchers say this isn't a way to avoid accountability, but allows flexibility for promising schools. But Keith Gambill, the vice president of the Indiana State Teachers' Association, told the Associated Press, "When the idea of vouchers was sold to Indiana, it was a way for students to get away from failing schools. This provision allows for those failing schools to continue without the same expectations or accountability.

Vouchers are high on the wish list for the Trump administration, supported by the president and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Education Week's Lisa Stark recently took a look at the Indiana voucher program to see how it's working.  

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