INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– Before they even learn their ABC’s, many parents start the debate about where their children will get an elementary and high school education: public or private school?
“Oh we talk about that all the time because [my husband] went to a private school, but I went to a pretty small public school,” said Megan Drahman, a mother to a 2-year-old.
The conversation for Hoosier families includes more options now than ever before. Lawmakers recently passed an expansion of the state’s school voucher program, which allows middle and low income families to receive state funding to help pay for education at a private school. The system essentially takes state dollars that would be allotted to the student in public school and puts it toward a school of their choice.
“From our perspective, it’s about empowering parents so that the school that best fits their child’s needs, they’re able to go to that school, said Marissa Lynch with School Choice Indiana.
“The tax credit scholarship program is now available to more current private school families and also siblings of voucher students can now take advantage of it. There’s also a special ed component so children with more special education needs can now use the voucher program as well.”
She said many families may not realize they’re eligible for vouchers, so there are information sessions being held around the state throughout the summer to answer questions. A family of four with a household income of $64,000 a year or less is likely to qualify.
For some parents, having more options doesn’t change the choice they’ve already made.
“My children will continue to go to public schools,” said Erica Watkins, a mother of two. “I attended public schools and I don’t have any problem with the public school system.”
Indiana’s voucher program is now considered the broadest of any state. The expansion and the program itself have faced opposition from proponents of public school and from the Indiana State Teachers Association. Teresa Meredith, vice president of the ISTA, was a plaintiff on a lawsuit claiming vouchers are unconstitutional, in part because the system uses taxpayer dollars to fund education at private schools that often have religious affiliations. The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the legality of school vouchers in a ruling in March of this year.
The first Indianapolis area information session for parents who want to learn more about the voucher program is Tuesday, May 14 at Holy Angels Catholic School at 6:30 p.m.