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April 2, 2013

Indiana Approves School Voucher Program

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The Indiana Supreme Court last week upheld a law that would allow taxpayer money to fund tuition at private schools through vouchers.

Voucher programs have long been contentious; supporters claim they give students in failing schools the ability to transfer out, but opponents say they weaken the public school system as a whole.

There are now more than 15 states that allow public funds to be used for private education, though these school choice programs vary from tuition vouchers to scholarship tax credits and education savings accounts.

A 2002 Supreme Court ruling left it up to individual states to decide whether to allow vouchers or not. It ruled that vouchers, which can be used at religious schools, do not violate the separation of church and state and are therefore constitutional.

While most voucher programs target low-income families or students in failing districts, Indiana will allow families of four making up to $64,000 a year to take advantage of the program.

This means that next year, more than half of Indiana’s students will be eligible for the vouchers, which are worth up to $4,500 per child.


Quotes

“What this has done, it has allowed — and the statistics are bearing it — it is allowing families the opportunity to pursue prosperity for their children,” – Tony Bennett, Former Indiana State Superintendent.

“This is not a scientific experiment. It’s an attempt in my view to just push down public education,” – State Rep. Edward Delaney, D-Ind.

Warm up

1. What is the difference between public and private schools?

2. How are public schools funded?

3. What is a school voucher?

Discussion questions

1. Do you think public funds should be used in private schools? Why or why not?

2. If a voucher is used to fund tuition at a private religious school, do you agree with the Supreme Court  that this does not violate the separation of church and state? Why or why not?

3. Does your state have any voucher programs? If so, what do you know about them?

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