• Angela C. Erickson
    Former Senior Research Analyst

Opening the Schoolhouse Doors

On May 5, 2011, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed into law the most expansive school choice program in the nation. Once the new Choice Scholarship Program is fully phased in, more than 60 percent of Indiana’s families will be eligible for scholarships. The program brings a wide array of educational options within the financial reach of families all across the Hoosier State.

The Choice Scholarship Program provides funds to low- and middle-income families throughout Indiana for use at the private school of their choice. Depending on family income, the scholarship is valued between 50 and 90 percent of the average public school spending per pupil in the family’s area. Scholarships are capped at 7,500 and 15,000 students respectively during the first two years while the program becomes established. In order to qualify, the student must have attended an Indiana public school for one year prior to applying for the scholarship and must be in a low- to middle-income family.1 The income limits are such that a family of four with an annual income of $60,000 may receive a scholarship, the amount of which is capped at $4,500 for students in first through eighth grades.

On July 1, 2011, national and state teachers’ unions opposed to school choice filed a lawsuit challenging the scholarship program. These groups argue that providing parents more educational options would harm public schools. They further argue the program violates the Indiana Constitution’s Blaine Amendment—which prohibits Indiana from using state funds to benefit religious institutions—by allowing parents the free and independent choice of public, private or religious schools. But, as this report demonstrates, Indiana already supports families who choose private K–12 and college education for their children—including religious schools—and has done so for decades. The Choice Scholarship Program simply opens the schoolhouse doors to more children.

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