EDITORIAL: Idolizing Indiana

From The Chicago Tribune:

Maybe you missed the crowning of the other “American Idol” recently: Indiana was voted America’s “Education Reform Idol” — the national leader in school reform. That was the verdict of an online and in-studio audience who voted in a contest sponsored by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an advocacy voice for education reform.

Illinois finished second. Not the worst, but not first.

One reason Indiana triumphed: its dramatic expansion of choice for its school kids — and their parents.

To recap: Earlier this year, Indiana lawmakers passed one of the most ambitious voucher programs in the country. It offers state-funded vouchers to students whose parents earn as much as $61,000 a year for a family of four.

And how have kids and their families responded? Overwhelmingly. In just a little more than 50 days, 3,669 Indiana students have been approved to receive vouchers to attend private schools, according to Alex Damron, spokesman for the Indiana Department of Education. Many of the students are choosing parochial schools, The Associated Press reports.

“The is the largest first-year voucher program in the nation’s history,” Damron told us. “It’s a remarkable number that shows Hoosier parents and students have tremendous interest in this opportunity. Folks do want choices.” About 85 percent of those kids come from lower-income levels, he said.

And Indiana is just getting started: The number of students snagging vouchers is expected to soar in coming years, as more parents and students become aware of the program and as limits are lifted: Within three years, there will be no limit on the number of vouchers available to eligible students.

Read more here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-voucher-20110901,0,799218.story