Vouchers Help Thousands Of Indiana Students Switch To Parochial Schools

This year, my home state of Indiana enacted the largest voucher program in the country. While many states have set up programs to allow low-income families or students in under-performing schools to apply for government vouchers, Indiana’s program reaches into the middle class and has no “failing school” stipulation. Even if the school in your area ranks high and does well, you’ll have the opportunity to send your kids to private schools.

Critics of the plan say that it violates the separation of church and state, because all but six of the 240 private schools set up in the voucher program are parochial. They are worried that it steals money away from public education programs and funnels it into church-sponsored education, in our state, mostly Catholic education.

As a proud graduate of Indiana’s public school system, I have to say that I’m not too upset about the new program. I believe that our public schools can and will compete with the private institutions. They need to be able to if parents are supposed to have confidence in the education they are giving our children. I don’t think that this new program needs to create an “us vs. them” mentality. Why can’t we just be excited that Indiana families are going to be able to make more informed decisions to send their children to a school that best fits their needs?

At least in our area, private schools and public schools both have their own appeal. Private schools are smaller, with a more tight-knit community and the added-bonus of religious education, if that’s something you’re seeking. Public schools, (once again, I realize that this is specific to my area) offer more advanced and developed athletic programs, extra-curricular activities and a wider variety of AP coursework. I’m not quite sure where my daughter will fit in to these options, but I’m happy that more parents and students will get the ability to choose what works best for them.

My single complaint about our expanded voucher program, and all of these new students in new classrooms around the state, is that private schools are using this opportunity to drastically increase their non-church-member tuition, since the state will most likely be footing the bill. I have friends with children in private school at the moment, and they were all introduced to the new price increases, with the assurance that families would be grandfathered in to the steep hikes. These families who had always been with the parochial school would get discounts on their tuition, while voucher students would be charged a larger amount. Apparently even parochial schools have to be businesses at heart.

Like any education program, we’ll have to wait and see just how effective Indiana’s ambitious new system is. Throughout the next decade, we’ll learn just how fed up with public schools our state residents are. While I believe in the public education system, I also hope that this will give them a slight wake up call that they aren’t the only game in town. In the end, we’re all trying to make sure that our children attend a school that works for them. I think any system that helps accomplish that goal at least deserves a chance.

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