Indiana Poised to Enact History-Making School Voucher Program

Most expansive program of its kind in the nation 
advances to Governor Daniels’ desk

Washington, D.C. (April 27, 2011) — Legislation that would create the most expansive statewide school voucher program in American history is headed to the desk of Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels tonight—just hours after the bill was given final approval by the state’s House of Representatives. The American Federation for Children (AFC) said that the legislation would empower thousands of parents and children from low-and middle-income families and marks a historic breakthrough for the national school choice movement in a year in which more than a dozen states are advancing comprehensive school choice legislation.

By its second year, the Choice Scholarships program—which Governor Daniels has championed—will allow up to 15,000 children to receive scholarships to attend the private school of their parents’ choice. Children whose parents make less than $60,000 per year (for a family of four) would be able to access the vouchers.

“Thanks to the hard work of legislators, advocates, and committed parents who will stop at nothing to fight for their children’s’ futures, tonight marks a watershed moment for Indiana families and for the movement to provide equal educational opportunity to disadvantaged children,” said AFC Chairman Betsy DeVos.

AFC saluted the bill’s champions, including Governor Mitch Daniels, State Education Superintendent Tony Bennett, House Speaker Brian Bosma, and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long for advancing the sweeping school choice measure. The organization also congratulated School Choice Indiana (www.SchoolChoiceIndiana.com) and the national Foundation for Educational Choice for their leadership in mobilizing significant public support for educational choice in the Hoosier State.

In addition to providing children from low- and middle-income families with access to high-quality private school options that would otherwise be out of reach, the Choice Scholarships program will be a fiscal savings to the state. Participating schools in the Choice Scholarships program would also be required to abide by the same strict accountability measures currently required of schools in the state’s existing scholarship tax credit program, including adherence to all state nondiscriminatory requirements, participation in all state exams, and annual independent financial audits. These accountability provisions were strongly supported by AFC.

Passage of the Indiana program comes during a monumental year for school choice—in which Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, among other states—are considering legislation to create or expand school voucher or scholarship tax credit programs. Legislation has already passed in Arizona and Georgia—and President Obama recently signed into law a five-year, $100 million expansion of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, a key priority of House Speaker John Boehner.

As of the 2010-2011 school year, nearly 200,000 children are benefiting from 20 private school choice programs (11 programs are voucher programs, while 9 programs are scholarship tax credits) in 12 states and the District of Columbia. The Indiana program will be the largest statewide school voucher program—with the exception of programs for children with special needs—in the nation. Florida’s McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities and the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program each serve about 22,000 students.