Have you ever wondered how much money public schools are losing because of the Indiana voucher program?
The Indiana Association of Pubic School Superintendents (IAPSS) recently released an analysis to share that information, according to IAPSS Executive Director J.T. Coopman.
The losses for Greene County include:
• Bloomfield School District — $132,433.33.
• Eastern Greene Schools — $169,978.18.
• Linton-Stockton School Corporation — $191,683.76.
• Metropolitan School District of Shakamak Schools — $121,727.26.
• White River Valley School District — $136,833.15.
• That’s a total of $752,655.68.
The losses for other area schools:
• Clay Community Schools — $599,396.74.
• Spencer-Owen Community Schools — $395,833.57.
• Northeast School Corporation — $190,363.83.
• Southwest School Corporation (Sullivan) — $258,120.45.
• North Daviess Community Schools — $155,752.22.
• North Knox School Corporation — $219,549.04.
• South Knox School Corporation — $153,112.36.
According to the IAPSS, there is a misconception by some about how the voucher program works as well as its impact on public schools.
Here is how a voucher works: A family that sends their child to a private school that accepts vouchers files their taxes like every other family. Like all taxpayers, a little over 44% of their income tax goes to support the education of all of Indiana’s students through a fund called Tuition Support. The family that qualifies and wants to send their student to a voucher school then fills out a form (the voucher) directing the state to send money from the Tuition Support budget to their private school.
This year Indiana will send over $150 million to private schools. The amount of each voucher varies per student, but the average is $4,258.
There are no charter schools in Greene County.
The IAPSS release also states that it’s conventional wisdom that the voucher program will only affect big cities. While voucher usage is higher in big cities, the financial effect is felt in every school district because the voucher dollars come out of Tuition Support, in effect reducing the dollars supporting students in all public schools.
The IAPSS also says that state legislators are quick to point out that Indiana is now spending more on education than it ever has. That is true and it was true in the 2015 budget and the 2013 budget before that. But the spending is not keeping up with inflation and it is impacted by the increasing number of vouchers being used.
“Let’s take a look at Indiana’s educational spending through the lens of a fictitious student named Fiona Hoosier. In January 2010, Fiona was in kindergarten and now is in the eighth grade,” the IAPSS release explained. “She has attended Logansport schools her whole life and loves being one of just over 4,200 Berries (the school nickname).
“From January of her kindergarten year (2010) to January of her 8th grade year (2018), the Consumer Price index increased by 14.39%. This means if Fiona’s parents had purchased something when she was in kindergarten for $100, it would cost them $114.39 today. If Hoosier paychecks are not 14.39% higher in 2018 than they were in 2010, they are falling behind inflation, even though their paychecks might be higher.
“Indiana’s Tuition Support budget has increased over that same period by 10.2%. This is well short of inflation. When you look at a per student expense and factor in the dollars that have been sent to private schools as vouchers, Indiana’s Tuition Support has only increased by 7.18% per student. That is half the inflation rate. This is at a time when the state’s entire budget has gone up 16.82%. Public education has lagged behind in Indiana’s budget over Fiona’s time in school.
“When Fiona was in second grade, the state began giving vouchers to private school students. Since then, the voucher program has grown to approximately 35,500 students. The voucher program has essentially created Indiana’s second largest school district without the oversight found in public school districts. Most of these students have never attended a public school before using a voucher and this year only 274 vouchers were used to leave an F-rated public school.”
The IPASS release goes on to state that if the $150 million from Tuition Support that is used for vouchers was re-distributed to the public schools as part of each district’s basic tuition grant, Fiona’s Logansport School district would have received an additional $619,000 this year.
“The impact of the voucher program is not based on how many vouchers are used in your district,” the release states. “It is based on each year’s Voucher Program cost to the Tuition Support budget across the state, regardless of the number of vouchers used within the district.”
The IPASS used as an example, Lebanon Schools lost over $530,000, Plainfield Schools lost over $770,000, and Carmel Schools lost over $2,365,000 this year. Currently there are 23 school districts where no vouchers are used. They are small districts and the voucher program costs them over $4 million this year combined. Peru Schools is the largest of these districts and it lost over $321,000.
While the IAPSS obviously sees the loss of money to public schools as a negative, some only see it as money being shifted. Those who want to send their students to a private or charter school now have that opportunity without having to use their own money to do so.
Some also point out that parents have every right to have their taxpayer dollars follow their child, no matter what type of education they seek for them.
Those who run our public schools and teach children at public schools claim — and they make a good point — that more is being expected of them (ISTEP and other standardized testing) and they are receiving less financial support.
It’s certainly not a perfect system, but you can make your views known during next month’s primary election. If you have a state representative or senator in your district who is up for election, quiz them on their thoughts about the voucher system and our educational system as a whole.
Chris is the publisher of the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (812) 847-4487.