House committee considers expansion of school voucher program

Feb 5, 2013

Indiana’s voucher program could be significantly expanded by loosened eligibility requirements under legislation being considered by the General Assembly.

The state’s current voucher program is available to any student who spends at least one year in public school beyond kindergarten and has an annual income of $64,000 or less for a family of four.  Proposed legislation would remove the public school attendance requirement.  It would also allow voucher recipients who meet the initial income level to keep their voucher if their income goes up to as much as $127,000 a year. 

South Bend resident Kevin Abbott has three children in a private grade school, and said that his family has made difficult financial sacrifices to send them there.

“To be voucher-eligible, our children would have to actually go back to public school, get reenrolled there, be there for year, then we’d have to take them back out at the end and then send them back to our private school,” said Abbott.

Suzanne Felli of Indianapolis said that by raising the income requirement and eliminating the attendance requirement, the program would not help those who truly need it.

“I’m scared of what will happen if more and more parents leave the public schools.  We will begin to re-segregate the schools with charter and private schools serving the haves and public schools serving the have-nots,” said Felli.

The proposed bill would also allow disabled students, foster children, siblings of voucher recipients and children of active duty military service members and veterans to receive vouchers regardless of family income.  And it would raise the voucher amount (currently capped at $4,500 per child) to $5,500 next year and $6,500 after that.