Indiana’s school voucher program continues to grow at a tapering rate, marking its smallest increase in students this year, according to new state data.
Now in its seventh year, the voucher program expanded by slightly more than 1,000 students — a tiny gain compared to its early explosive growth.
With the nation’s broadest and largest single voucher program, Indiana is on track to spend more than $153 million this year to help more than 35,000 students pay for private school tuition, according to the state’s annual voucher report.
The use of vouchers is increasing among Hispanic and Asian students, in suburban areas, and among students with disabilities, the report said.
An increasing number of voucher recipients are electing to receive special education support at their private schools, where there’s little oversight of the quality of those services. Four out of five voucher recipients still rely on public school districts to provide for their special education needs.
This year, the state added one new way to qualify for vouchers, also known as school choice scholarships. For the first time, 28 students from families of extremely high poverty — those with an annual income of about $31,000 for a family of four — received vouchers to stay at the same private school where they attended pre-Kindergarten through the state’s early childhood education voucher program, On My Way Pre-K.
About 70 percent of voucher recipients come from families that qualify for free or reduced-price meals, a measure of poverty. For those students, vouchers can be worth up to 90 percent of what public schools would have received in state funding for those student.
The other share of recipients come from families who make more money — up to about $91,000 for a family of four — to accommodate students with special needs, or those whose families’ income increases while they’re in the program. Those students receive vouchers worth up to 50 percent of the state tuition allocation.