The Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, enacted in May of 2011, provides scholarships to attend a school of choice, to Indiana families that meet financial eligibility guidelines. This program offers the opportunity for Indiana families to choose the school that best suits their children’s needs, including non-public schools like our 17 area Lutheran elementary schools and Concordia High School. With all of the recent headlines surrounding Vouchers, The Lutheran Schools Partnership would like to provide the following information points on the program.
The Choice Scholarship Program provides scholarships to eligible students by utilizing a portion of the state funds allocated for that child to follow them to the non-public school of their choice. There is a cap on the number of scholarships provided; this year 7,500 scholarships (that is, vouchers) are available and next year 15,000 will be available.
Student Eligibility and Scholarship Amounts
- Students must have been in a public school for the two semesters prior to the semester they receive the scholarship.
- Please note that Kindergarten cannot count as the prior two semesters, but students who have received a scholarship through a Scholarship Tax Credit Program (a.k.a. “SGO” or Scholarship Granting Organization-more on these in an article next month) in a prior year are also eligible for the Voucher program without being a public school the year prior.
- Families below the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Income Guidelines are eligible to receive a voucher/scholarship for 90% of state tuition support (based on the funding level in their school district of residence). This income level is around $40,000 for a family of four.
- Families below 150% of the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Income Guidelines are eligible to receive a voucher for 50% of state tuition support (based on the funding level in their school district of residence). This income level is around $60,000 for a family of four.
- The Scholarship amount will be the lesser of tuition and fees or (the applicable percentage of) the state tuition support in the district of residence. However the cap for grades 1-8 is $4,500.
Non-Public School Eligibility and Participation
- Participating non-public schools must be accredited by the state or another regional accreditation agency recognized by the state board and administer the ISTEP
- Participating non-public schools must not discriminate in admissions based on race, color, or national origin
- Participating non-public schools must conduct a lottery if the number of applicants meeting admissions criteria exceeds the number of slots available for students receiving scholarships
- PL 221 accountability (school grading system) applies and any school who is consistently in lowest categories will become ineligible to receive scholarship funds
- Participating non-public schools must meet certain curricular standards which are consistent with state-accreditation in addition to not advocating for any government overthrow
- Annual teacher performance evaluation plans must also be implemented.
What is the Level of Participation of Lutheran Schools this Year?
Most of our Lutheran schools are having a “wait and see” attitude toward the Voucher program this year. Two major stumbling blocks for many of our schools in choosing to be involved this year are the timing of the application processes for schools and families (applications were just completed on July 8th) and some anxiety of the amount of government intervention in the local school (reporting to the state).
This being said, some of our schools are seeing this law as an opportunity- an opportunity to reach out to a segment of the community that otherwise may have not considered enrollment in a Lutheran school. The fact is that Lutheran schools have a unique opportunity to proclaim the Gospel message and a family who has gone through the application process with a Lutheran school and would benefit from the school’s program can now get assistance through the state of Indiana.
Stay tuned to hear how this program will impact our schools and how families are utilizing the program! Should you have any other questions, please feel free to contact Mark Muehl, Director of The Lutheran Schools Partnership, at 260-241-4845, or email The Partnership at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updated 8/9/11: We are pleased to announce the following schools will participate in the voucher program: St John Kendallville, Emmaus, Woodburn, LSUS, CLHS