April 16, 2021

School choice myths and facts

The same arguments that opponents of school choice leveled against Indiana’s voucher program when it was introduced a decade ago are back in the public arena.

Then and now, one of the leading voices countering those attacks is the Indiana Non-Public Education Association (INPEA), the only organization focused solely on supporting the 400 non-public schools in the state.

“There has been a growing negative narrative in the media from opponents to the proposed school choice expansions under consideration at the Statehouse,” said John Elcesser, executive director of the INPEA. “Let’s separate fact from fiction. Of course, if you want the full story, take a look beyond the numbers and ask a parent whose children’s lives have been impacted by the program.”

The INPEA, whose member schools include Indiana’s 175 Catholic schools, has compiled a list of common myths about school choice—along with the facts that refute them.

MYTH 1: Choice undermines public school funding and costs taxpayers and public schools.

FACTS:

• Students who receive a voucher make up 3 percent of Indiana’s entire K-12 student population, but they receive only 2 percent of the funding allocated for K-12 education.

• For the 2019-20 school year, the average voucher amount in Indiana was $4,707, compared to the average traditional public-school state tuition support amount of $6,872 (the amount allocated per student from the state). This means that a voucher student receives, on average, $2,000 less in state money for his or her education. In addition, voucher students do not receive any federal or local dollars.

• In the 2019-20 school year, Indiana awarded approximately $173 million in school vouchers. If each of the 36,707 voucher students would have attended their district public school instead of a private school, the state would have spent approximately $239 million in tuition support for those students. That’s a savings to the state of about $66 million.

MYTH 2: Choice does not lead to better academic outcomes for students.

FACTS:

• Student academic growth scores from the Indiana Department of Education, which measure the amount of assessed learning through a one-year period, found that in 2019:

     • Eight out of the top 10 schools were voucher-accepting schools.

     • The top five schools in terms of growth were all voucher-accepting schools.

• In terms of student proficiency, which is measured by pass rates on state standardized tests, findings from the 2018 ILEARN/ISTEP tests revealed:

     • Six of the top seven schools in the state on the ISTEP 10 were non-public (voucher) schools.

     • Twenty-five of the top 50 high schools were non-public (voucher) schools.

     • Nineteen of the top 50 grade 3-8 schools were non-public (voucher) schools.

MYTH 3: Choice programs do not have the same accountability as public schools.

FACTS:

• All voucher-accepting non-public schools must be accredited.

• Voucher-accepting non-public schools must administer the ILEARN test and receive A-F grades like all other schools.

• Unlike public schools, voucher-accepting non-public schools are subject to consequences if they are low academic performers for two years (D- or F-rated schools).

• The truest form of accountability is choice. No one is automatically assigned to a non-public school. Parents have to choose to send their child to one of these schools, and they can also choose to leave that school if it is not working.

MYTH 4: Choice programs allow for discrimination.

FACTS:

• Nine out of 10 national empirical studies show that choice programs lead to less segregation.

• Voucher students are lower-income compared to traditional public school students. Statewide, 70% of voucher students are on free and reduced-price lunch compared to 47 percent of public school students.

• Voucher students in Indiana are more racially diverse compared to traditional public school students.

     • Voucher students: 57 percent white, 43 percent minority

     • Traditional public school students: 68 percent white, 32 percent minority.


Established in 1974, the INPEA is a leading advocate for parents’ ability to choose the best school setting for their children. The organization has been an important choice coalition partner during the 10 years of the Indiana Choice Scholarship (Voucher) Program and is a key resource for schools, education leaders and public officials.

For more information, including access to INPEA podcasts, position papers and research data, visit www.inpea.org. †

 

(Related: Vouchers benefit Catholic school students)

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