Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Court Fight Over Successful Voucher Program Continues in Indiana

Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program, the voucher program signed into law by Governor Daniels earlier this year, helps almost 4,000 low- and middle-income students go to the school of their parents’ choice.  The broadest voucher program in the nation, the program allows families to choose the best educational options for their children.

But opponents and special interests—those who are more interested in the status quo than maximizing positive outcomes for children—are fighting a legal battle to get Indiana’s voucher program repealed, despite numerous challenges across the country in recent years that have upheld the constitutionality of school choice programs.

Yesterday, a Marion County judge heard arguments from both sides on the constitutionality of the program and will issue a ruling in 30 days. Lasting more than two hours, opponents of the program (including the Indiana State Teachers Association) argued that the program is unconstitutional, and if a ruling by a Marion County judge earlier this year is any indication, they’re wrong.

That’s also the opinion held by Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who says the Choice Scholarship Program is putting education choice in the hands of parents.

According to Zoeller,
In defending the statute as is our obligation, we contend the Legislature in creating broader educational opportunities followed the Indiana Constitution, since the scholarship funding is directed to students' families, not to the private schools, and the program does not violate anyone's rights. The state law that legislators passed has allowed approximately 3,900 students across Indiana to use choice scholarships to access wider educational options.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that state vouchers are constitutional.  In 2002, the high court ruled that vouchers do not violate the U.S. Constitution because education dollars go to the parents to choose the school for their children, not to the schools themselves.

While opponents make subjective arguments about the program’s constitutionality, there’s no denying the overwhelmingly positive results that the program has produced in just one semester of operation:
  • 58 percent of scholarship recipients qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program
  • 53 percent of scholarships recipients are minorities, including 24 percent African-American and 19 percent Hispanic
  • 69 percent of participating students live in metropolitan areas, 16 percent live in suburban areas and 15 percent live in rural areas.
  • Children using vouchers come from 185 different school districts.
The Choice Scholarship Program will enroll up to 15,000 students next year, and beginning in 2013-14, there will be no cap on scholarships.

Families who make up to 100 percent of the free and reduced-price lunch program receive a scholarship of 90 percent of the per-pupil amount.  Families who make up to 150 percent of the free and reduced-price lunch program receive a scholarship of 50 percent of the per-pupil amount.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment