Vouchers

Explore both sides of the school voucher debate. Learn what your options are, how those choices are funded and the impact on your local school district. From the latest government initiatives to results from recent studies, explore vouchers and the options they provide.
View the most popular articles in Vouchers:
In an effort to provide families with a disabled child more choices with regard to their child’s education, some cities and states have implemented school voucher programs that provide taxpayer assistance to pay for a child’s private school education. Doing so, supporters say, gives special needs children an opportunity to get a high-quality education at a school their families may not otherwise be able to afford. Yet, detractors of such programs maintain that private schools are not held to the same standard as public schools when it comes to providing special education services. Specifically, some parents worry about the implementation – or lack thereof – of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in private school settings.
 
What is IDEA?
 
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law that governs what public schools must do to meet the needs of children with disabilities. As mandated by IDEA, students with disabilities are guaranteed a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Essentially, this means that public schools must make necessary accommodations such that students with physical, mental, developmental or emotional disabilities can learn with the same degree of ease as regular education students. These accommodations can vary widely, from more time to take a test to having specialized technologies or classrooms made available for students with disabilities.
 
Accommodations for disabled students are outlined in the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which also includes educational goals and summarizes how a student will engage in the regular curriculum. The IEP is developed by the student’s teachers, special educators, administrators and parents, and must be completed before the child can begin to receive services. IEPs are updated each year to reflect the student’s growth and changing needs.
 
What are Vouchers?
 
School vouchers are essentially state-funded scholarships that pay for a child’s expenses related to attendance at a private school. Vouchers can be obtained by a wide variety of students, although subgroups that are typically underrepresented – such as those with disabilities or those who are poor – tend to be targeted . . . read more
School vouchers are a source of debate between public and private schools nationwide, but nowhere is the debate more acutely felt than in the state of Indiana.  Indiana is home to one of the largest voucher programs in the country, and many are waiting to see whether this program delivers on all of its promises. Vouchers are also a major point of contention in places like Wisconsin and Louisiana, where schools are fighting for students and parents are waiting to see if the benefits of school choice will come to fruition. Do vouchers really improve the quality of education for all students? With inconclusive test results, the jury appears to still be out. However, that doesn’t change the intensity with which both sides are fighting for the type of education system they believe is best.

Competition Heats Up in Indiana
 
The Indiana voucher system is getting bigger this year, and public schools across the state are feeling the heat. Fox News reports that the new voucher system first passed the Indiana legislature in 2011, and the hundreds of students that left public schools for private pastures last year could turn into thousands of students this year. Public schools are turning to advertising, as well as door-to-door campaigning, to keep kids in their neighborhood schools – and funding in the public school system.
 
Currently, more than 8,000 students in Indiana have applied for the voucher program for the upcoming school year. There is room for as many as 15,000 students to take advantage of the ability to afford private school tuition through vouchers that equal per student funding in public schools. Unlike other voucher programs that primarily target low income families, the Indiana program offers vouchers to families of four with incomes of up to $64,000 per year. With an average annual income of $67,000 in the state, plenty of school children are qualifying for the voucher program.
 
Advertising Dollars Spent
 
In response to the mass exodus of students from some Indiana schools, districts are launching ad campaigns to alert families . . . read more
A proposal to give state funding directly to high school students, rather than public schools, continues to be hashed out by Utah lawmakers. The bill would take per-pupil funding and put it into a savings account for the individual student, rather than sending it directly to the local school district. This money could then be used by the student to pay for public or charter school, online classes, or even courses at the college level. Like other bills touting school choice, this proposal has been met with strong opinions on both sides of the aisle.

About HB123
 
The new bill, dubbed HB123, is a proposal that would put money into the hands of students and their parents, rather than the school system. The bill was originally introduced by Republican state Representative John Dougall, according to the Huffington Post. Dougall believes that his bill would offer a number of advantages to Utah high school students, including the creation of more competition between schools, which could raise the bar on the quality of education in the state overall.
 
“Today what we have is top down funding and we know many of the challenges that come with top down funding,” Dougall told the Huffington Post. “HB123 is what I call grassroots funding where we fund the student rather than institutions.”
 
Dougall estimates that the current funding amount students would expect to receive from the state would be approximately $6,400 per student, per year, based on current funding amounts. Instead of going to the school district, the money would be placed in a savings account for the individual student, where it could then be used to pay for whatever education choices the student and his parent make. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, the money could be used for public school classes, charter schools or online high school courses.
 
Students who qualified could also opt to take eligible courses at public and some private non-profit Utah colleges. All the participating schools and districts would be able to determine the cost of their . . . read more
There are few topics as fiercely debated in the world of education today as school choice and voucher programs. The subject becomes particularly prevalent in areas where public schools are not making the grade, but has also been seen in districts where the public schools are performing well.  However, parents want more opportunities and choices for their children. No matter what side of the fence a parent or educator might be on, chances are the emotions surrounding this topic run high. We’ll take a closer look at the school choice idea, including the history of the programs and the pros and cons that make this issue one of the hot-button subjects around the country.

Which School to Choose?
 
One reason school choice has become a major point of contention is due to the fact that there are many options in education today. Districts offer a wide range of school types, and parents are faced with choices that they may not have had just a few decades earlier. Some of the schools seen in communities today include:
 
Neighborhood Public Schools
 
Public schools are funded by the government, so they must follow certain guidelines set forth by state regulators. These schools are free to all children to attend, and the proximity to homes in the neighborhood makes them easy for children to attend. Schools are typically assigned by district zoning regulations, although some districts allow students to attend another public school outside their immediate neighborhood if there is sufficient space in the school for that student.

Charter Schools
 
Charter schools are also public schools, so no tuition is required to attend. However, these schools are not set up by the state; instead, they are established independently through teachers, parents and community members. The schools are not subject to the same state and federal requirements that govern other public schools, but they are held to a high accountability level in terms of their performance. Parents must request that their children are enrolled in the school, and high parental involvement is strongly encouraged at most charters.

Magnet Schools
 
Voucher programs have become a hot topic of debate at school districts across the country, but Indiana is one of the first states to truly see firsthand how a voucher program can impact the scope of public and private school. This state is home to the most expansive voucher program in the nation, with more than 250 religious or private schools currently approved for the program. While more than 3,000 students statewide are expected to reap the benefits of the Indiana voucher program this year, not everyone is thrilled with the idea of taking tax dollars out of public schools to fund private education. With two sides to this hot-button issue, we’ll explore the full realm of state voucher programs, including how this particular program is changing the face of public and private education in Indiana.

Details of the Voucher Program
 
According to a recent report at U.S. Catholic, the Indiana voucher program passed the state legislature in the spring of this year, and since that time, around 250 private and religious schools have been approved by the state to participate in the program. This means that approved schools can admit students on scholarship, based on the family’s income levels. Scholarship money comes from the tax dollars that would normally be spend on public schooling. The equivalent of the per-pupil tax dollars goes directly to the family to be used to pay tuition and fees at the approved private school of the family’s choice, rather than going into the public school system.
 
A report at the Times-Union explains that in order to be eligible for a scholarship to a private school, a student must be enrolled in public school for the two semesters prior to the year they receive the scholarship money. The student must also be currently enrolled in the federal Free and Reduced Lunch program. Families who fall below the Free and Reduced Lunch program guidelines, which typically include families of four who earn around $40,000 or less, are eligible to receive up to 90 . . . read more
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VOUCHERS