Editor’s note: This article appeared Tuesday on stateaffairs.com.
Eligibility for Indiana’s school choice voucher program is poised to dramatically increase next school year, enabling roughly 97% of students to use state money to attend private schools, according to school choice advocates.
State lawmakers have slowly expanded the program since they implemented it more than a decade ago. The state released its annual school choice report last month which provides insight into where the program stands ahead of arguably its largest expansion to date.
Already, between the 2021-2022 school year and the 2022-2023 school year, the cost to state taxpayers for the program grew by 30%, the report shows. That’s before the latest eligibility expansion goes into effect.
The 2022-2023 school year was the state’s largest increase in the number of students claiming vouchers since the 2014-2015 school year.
This past school year, a family of four had to earn around $154,000 per year or less for a student to qualify to receive state money to attend a private school. In the two-year state budget passed in April, lawmakers expanded the eligibility to allow those making 400% of the income required to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches to participate in the school choice program.
Likewise, state lawmakers simplified eligibility by removing other requirements.
That means a family of four earning up to $220,000 per year will qualify this upcoming year, including students who have already been attending private school on their family’s own dime. Robert Enlow, the president and CEO of EdChoice, called Indiana’s program “effectively universal.”
“It’s unfair to pay twice, once in taxes and once in tuition,” Enlow said. “[The new policy has] basically said to almost every parent in the state of Indiana that we trust your choices.”
Costs for the program are expected to balloon by more than 70% in the first year. By fiscal year 2025, the state will spend an estimated $600 million on vouchers per year.
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