Wednesday, September 7, 2011

State Superintendent Touts New Enrollment Numbers for Indiana Voucher Program

At Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels' education roundtable yesterday, State Superintendent for Public Education Tony Bennett said that parents have applied for more than half of Indiana's 7,500 vouchers this year, a remarkable number considering the application period lasted for just a few weeks.

And in the early-goings, it seems like the program is accomplishing the goals put forth at the outset: a total of 85 percent of the voucher students comes from low-income backgrounds, and 15 percent of voucher recipients live in small towns or rural areas. Here's what Bennett had to say at the governor's roundtable:

There is a broad geographical spread that says poverty has no boundaries in Indiana. But we are also saying that demography does not determine a student's destiny.

There's been a recent clamor in Indiana papers to make sure that the state's school choice program is subject to strict accountability standards in order to concretely gauge its impact. We agree, but with that cautious wait-and-see approach must also come an open mind. In addition to opposition from special interests, some in the media have already resigned the program to being a failure, despite a great deal of research over the years that speaks to the success of similarly-designed programs.

We are not in the business of embracing vouchers simply for the sake of embracing vouchers—we promote, fight for, and believe in school choice because it works. The early numbers out of Indiana support that mindset, but if we find a clear, methodologically sound study that clearly indicates problems with a program, will we call for reform. Too often, though, figures that decry vouchers are agenda-driven and a poor snapshot of where kids really are.

In the same vein, we expect acknowledgement from opponents when their arguments are proved false. Those who have argued that these programs are a scheme for the rich can't honestly say that while looking into the eyes of the over 3,000 kids on free and reduced lunch who will benefit from vouchers in Indiana.

Those who say it costs public schools money should finally recognize the reality that the per-pupil funding for public schools actually increases with the existence of voucher programs.

And those who say school choice is for only some communities can look to Indiana as an example of how, as Bennett said, poverty knows no bounds.

Watch below for a local news report about the enrollment numbers:

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, MAG

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