NEWS: Indiana Claims Title of Nation's Biggest First-Year Voucher Program Ever

Note: This is a modified version of a joint press release from School Choice Indiana and the organization’s partner groups including: The Indiana Non-Public Education Association, the Indiana Catholic Conference, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the American Federation for Children, and Agudath Israel.

INDIANAPOLIS, (November 4, 2011) – The Indiana Department of Education (DOE) announced that the state’s new voucher program approved nearly 4,000 students for participation in 2011-12, making the Choice Scholarship Program the biggest first-year voucher program ever.

American Federation for Children, the nation’s voice for school choice, salutes Governor Mitch Daniels, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett, and state legislators for giving Hoosier parents this tremendous opportunity to choose a school that best meets their child’s individual learning needs.

A total of 3,919 students were approved for participation, drawing families from every corner of the state. Nearly 85 percent, or 3,326, of voucher recipients are on the free and reduced lunch program. Fifty three percent of program participants represent minority families, including 24 percent African-American and 19 percent Hispanic.

“The Choice Scholarship’s first-year numbers send a signal to legislators everywhere that there is a strong demand for school choice,” said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. “It’s time for families all around the country to have the same access to a high-quality education as is now being afforded to Indiana families.”

The final tally from the DOE finds that the level of participation in Indiana significantly exceeded what was seen in other states during the first year of voucher program implementation. By comparison, Ohio’s EdChoice Program had 2,713 participants in 2006-07, its first year. The next highest first-year voucher participation rate came from the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program, with 1,994 students participating in 1996-97.

“It’s terrific to see that so many families have taken advantage of this exciting new opportunity,” said Lindsey Brown, Executive Director of School Choice Indiana. “Students are already benefiting from this important program and the stories that we’ve heard from parents and principals have been very encouraging.”

The number of available vouchers for the 2011-2012 year was capped at 7,500 children. Next year the participation cap increases to 15,000 children. Limits on the number of vouchers will be removed in the third year of the program.

Although the student application window is currently closed, the Department of Education will release information at a later date to alert families when the next window to apply is open.