WNDU in South Bend aired a great story yesterday on how the dramatic expansion of school vouchers is negatively affecting our public schools. Reporter Mark Peterson uses South Bend public schools as a prime example.
The number of Indiana students statewide who attend private schools using taxpayer funded vouchers is now greater than the number of students enrolled in the entire South Bend public school system.
There has been a five-fold increase in the number of Indiana Choice Scholarships awarded since the controversial program made its debut in the fall of 2011.
When then Governor Mitch Daniels signed the voucher bill into law, he dismissed criticisms that vouchers would drain funds from public school by saying very few and only low-income students would qualify. However, the voucher program has been drastically transformed from a program to “help a small amount of poor children” into a middle-class entitlement program which benefits mostly private religious schools with tax payer dollars.
Per reporter Mark Peterson:
In the first two years of the Choice Scholarship program, 928 students have used vouchers to exit the South Bend school system. The movement has cost the district some $5.9 million in lost state funding, and perhaps an immeasurable amount of damaged credibility.
Just like for-profit charter schools, school vouchers are an impediment to properly funding Indiana’s public schools. South Bend Community School Corporation Superintendent, Dr. Carole Schmidt, framed this issue well:
“There is no country in this world, across the globe that has school reform as charters and vouchers and so until the system gets elevated with public education then we’re constantly going to be in this competition for the money as opposed to what do we do together to provide quality to kids.”
Our legislature and Governor need to refocus on properly funding our public schools rather than attempting to set them up for failure by creating programs and schools that drain money away from them.