This year more than 30,000 students will again head to their school of choice, made possible by the Indiana School Choice Scholarship. With more students than ever participating in the voucher program, and 81 percent of parents saying they’re “overwhelmingly satisfied_” with their school of choice, there’s plenty of evidence this program is benefitting children across the state. Judging by consumer satisfaction, school choice is a clear winner in Indiana.
Opponents, however, don’t agree. They believe school choice is causing discrimination and segregation. For example, in previous op-eds in the Journal Gazette, two public-school advocates argued against vouchers by pointing out that private schools are not as diverse as public schools. One went so far as to deny that vouchers are enabling thousands of minority students to attend the school of their choice. Another incredibly suggested that vouchers are enabling “white flight.” To support these positions, however, these “friends of public education” must ignore the increasingly diverse student populations of Indiana private schools since the School Choice Program began in 2011.
Using stats from last year, according to data from the Indiana Department of Education, Bishop Dwenger High School had quadrupled its Hispanic population in the first five years of the choice scholarship program. Bishop Luers, one of the most diverse private high schools in Fort Wayne, experienced a similar increase in Hispanic students in the same period, and the number of African-American students grew by 50 percent. Since the 2012-13 school year, Concordia Lutheran High School’s racial diversity has increased from 17.83% to 21.48% (2017-18). Their largest increase is in Hispanic students. Overall, these schools are now more diverse because Choice Scholarships have made it possible for more students to attend.
Using this year’s input from Lutheran elementary schools, Concordia (30% non-white), Holy Cross (27.7%), and Lutheran South Unity (88% non-white) demonstrate diversity- diversity that is embraced and encouraged. This is also diversity that represents the school’s neighborhood.
It’s undeniable that Choice Scholarships have opened doors of opportunity to thousands of students from diverse ethnic backgrounds. According to Indiana Department of Education data, the number of African-American students participating in the Choice Scholarships program grew from 943 to 4,252 over the past six years. Similarly, in the same period, the number of multiracial students grew from 287 to 2,081, and the number of Hispanic students grew from 794 to 6,644.
Statewide, 12.4 percent of Choice Scholarship recipients are African-American (compared with 9 percent of all Hoosiers) and 19.4 percent of Choice Scholarship recipients are Hispanic or Latino (compared with 6 percent of all Hoosiers). In total, the percentage of Choice Scholarship recipients who are non-white is 39.7. When given the choice, these Indiana families are opting in to the Choice Scholarship Program.