11/26/12 The Indiana Department of Education released the figures for Indiana school vouchers (Indiana Choice Scholarship Program on Wednesday. According to the IDOE, the number of vouchers nearly doubled in the second year of the program, bringing the total to 9,324 families signing up for the 2012-2013 school year. During the first year of vouchers, 3, 919 families took the opportunity to choose the school that they wanted their children to attend.

The number of schools participating in the voucher program jumped from 241 last year to 289 this school year.

“Once again, thousands of Hoosier families made powerful choices for their children, choices made possible by Indiana’s commitment to educational option for all students-regardless of background, income or ZIP code.” said Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Tony Bennett. He added, “Simply put, we are providing our neediest families options they’ve never had before, and they’re taking advantage of the opportunity to select schools that work best for their children.”

To qualify for Indiana vouchers, families must fall within the federal free and reduced lunch income requirements. Those students, who qualify for free and reduced lunch benefits, may receive up to 90 percent of the tuition support from the school corporations where they live. For instance, for those residing in the n the Plymouth Community School Corporation,  90 percent is $5,089,32.Other families whose income does not exceed 150 percent of the amount required to qualify for reduced lunch can be granted scholarships. There is a cap of $4,500 at both the elementary and middle school levels.

After the scholarships are distributed, any remaining funds are distributed to school corporations using the school funding formula. According to the press release issued by the IDOE on November 21, nearly $4.2 million was redistributed. Some $38 million was redirected from the public to private schools.

However, how the program will work in the future could be altered. The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments on November 21 by some challenging the 2011 law that created the voucher program. Indiana’s program is the largest in the nation. Among those opposing the program is the Indiana State Teachers Association. The ISTA contends that school vouchers violate the state constitution because taxpayer’s money is being directed to religion-affiliated schools and taking the funding away from the public schools.

The court is under no timetable to rule on the matter.

Carol Anders Correspondent