Legislation Empowers Parents, Provides Quality Options for Students
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Alex Damron, Press Secretary
The Indiana Senate passed House Bill 1003 today, empowering Hoosier families to select the best schools for their children. Approved by a vote of 28 to 22, the bill creates a needs-based voucher program for qualifying parents to send their children to participating non-public schools throughout the state.
“A great education should not be an option available only to a privileged few but rather a fundamental right for all Americans,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett said. “In Indiana, we are removing barriers to success and opportunity for students who have been denied equitable access for far too long.”
HB 1003 provides two tiers of means-tested opportunity scholarships that can be used to offset tuition costs at non-public schools.
A student from a household whose annual income qualifies for the federal free or reduced lunch program may receive an opportunity scholarship worth 90 percent of the state per-student tuition support from the school corporation in which the student lives. For a qualifying family of four, this equals an income of approximately S41,000. A student is eligible to receive 50 percent of his or her state per-student tuition support if the family’s total income does not exceed 150 percent of the amount required to qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. This would qualify a family of four with an income of approximately $61,000. Information regarding free and reduced lunch program income levels for different family sizes can be found here:
To receive an opportunity scholarship, a student must attend a public school for two semesters prior to enrolling in the scholarship program and moving to a non-government school. The maximum scholarship amount is $4,500 for students in grades 1-8. The number of participating students is initially capped at 7,500 for the 2011-2012 school year and 15,000 for the 2012-2013 school year. Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, all students who qualify may participate.
“Hoosiers with means exercise school choice for their children every day,” Dr. Bennett said. “This measure extends that right to all Indiana families. Children have unique learning needs and deserve access to high quality options to meet those needs.
“Indiana’s ‘Putting Students First’ education reform agenda ensures parents have an array of excellent public and non-public options for their children. There is no silver bullet for the challenges our education system faces. We all have to work together to prepare Hoosier students for the challenges they face in a globally competitive workforce.”
HB 1003 aligns with the national accountability movement by requiring participating schools to be approved by the state, administer the ISTEP and ECA exams, and receive A-F letter grades just like traditional public schools and public charter schools. Participating non-public schools that chronically underperform will be removed from the program.
In Indiana, the bill forms a key portion of the nation’s most comprehensive education reform agenda. HB 1002 and 1003 provide families quality options by increasing access to charter schools and offering students school choice. Senate Bill 1 aims to foster the nation’s best educator workforce, and SB 575 frees school leaders to make decisions based on students’ needs.
HB 1003 now awaits final approval from the Indiana House of Representatives.