Indiana's new school voucher law has led some Hoosier parents to take their students out of private schools and place them in public schools for a year to earn eligibility for the publicly funded program, The Journal Gazette reports.
Last week, the state announced that nearly 4,000 students have moved to private institutions under the program, totaling $16 million in state funds.
When the school year started, the mass exodus of students from public schools who took with them public dollars was met with great controversy. Parents wanted the best education they could get for their kids, public school teachers needed the resources to provide the best education they could for their students.
If voucher students withdraw from private institutions and re-enroll in public schools, the private school must return what's left of the student's funding for the year to the state, but the state doesn't necessarily forward that refund to the student's new public school.
Cornerstone Christian College Preparatory School received $431,000 and saw a huge increase in students -- to 129 this year, from last year's 26. Of the school's students, 94 are using vouchers, the Associated Press reports. Another 42 are on the waiting list to be admitted under the voucher program.
But the state says that 67 of the students who entered using vouchers at the beginning of the school year have already left. And others -- non-voucher students -- are leaving their private schools as well.
At St. Charles Barromeo Catholic School, 24 students came from public schools with vouchers, but 15 students left as their parents reportedly placed them in public schools to wait out the year for voucher eligibility to kick in, The Journal Gazette reports. The phenomenon is something state lawmakers say they must keep an eye on, but that public school officials could use to keep former private school students in public schools.
"They’ll be in public school for a year, which gives them a great chance to make the sale," state Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma told The Journal Gazette. "The best thing is the families have options and they can select the option that is best for their student."
Indiana's school voucher program was signed into law in May by Gov. Mitch Daniels, allowing a system in which the state's education department pays for all or part of a child's private education. To be eligible for vouchers, the child must be an Indiana resident and have attended an Indiana public school for the full year prior above the 2nd grade, as well as meeting various other age and family income requirements.
Proposals for voucher programs are gaining traction across the country amid a contentious education reform movement, though not all states seeing those proposals have embraced the idea.
A Denver judge blocked Colorado's first school voucher program in August, calling it a "substantial disservice to the public interest," and a local school board election was fought among pro- and anti-voucher candidates.