(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Indiana’s school voucher program is returning money to public schools, although those on either side of the issue will argue if that’s a good thing or not.
The Indiana Department of Education announced Wednesday that $4.9 million more would go to the state's schools because of savings achieved through school vouchers.
The state spends less providing a student a voucher to pay a portion of tuition at a private school than it would educating that child at a public school. By state law, the savings to the state is returned to public schools.
According to the Associated Press, IDOE director of school finance Melissa Ambre wrote in a memo to the State Budget Committee that even though the voucher program saved $5 million, the state only had enough money to return $3.3 million to public schools. The amount paid to each school will vary, a committee member said.
Last year, the IDOE returned to the state $4.1 million saved by vouchers.
Despite the return, opponents of the voucher law – such as the Indiana chapter of the American Federation of Teachers – say the state is still spending less on public schools than before.
"Public schools aren't getting the money that's been cut from the budget," Rick Muir, president of the Indiana AFT, told the Associated Press. "They can claim that all they want, but public schools are receiving much less funding than they have prior to vouchers."
In the 2013 legislative session, Indiana lawmakers approved a two-year budget that provides $300 million more in funding on education than the previous budget. The spending plan also provides more funding for the voucher program.
The voucher law passed in 2011 established the IDOE’s Indiana Choice Scholarship program, which has been called the voucher program with the widest eligibility in the country. Governor Mike Pence signed a bill expanding eligibility rules earlier this month.
More than 9,300 students at almost 300 schools statewide participated in the program this school year, and that number is expected to grow next school year. For students in grades 1 through 8, the voucher amount can be as much as $4,500.