INDIANAPOLIS, Nov. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Indiana Department of Education (DOE) today released final numbers for the first year of the School Scholarship Program. The Hoosier State is now home to the nation's biggest first-year voucher program ever. With 3,919 students approved for participation, families from every corner of the state are applauding Governor Mitch Daniels, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett and state legislators for allowing them to choose a school that best meets their child's individual learning needs.
Nearly 85 percent, or 3,326, of voucher recipients are on the free and reduced lunch program.Fifty-three percent of program participants represent minority families, including 24 percent African-American and 19 percent Hispanic.
"It's terrific to see that so many families have taken advantage of this exciting new opportunity," said Lindsey Brown, Executive Director of School Choice Indiana. "Students are already benefiting from this important program and the stories that we've heard from parents and principals have been very encouraging."
According to the DOE, 69 percent of students approved for vouchers are from metropolitan areas, 16 percent are from suburban areas, and 15 percent are from rural and town areas. Children from 185 Indiana school districts are participating in the program, with no school district accounting for more than 17 percent of the total scholarship recipients. The largest number of voucher approvals by city includes: 644 students from Indianapolis, 393 from Fort Wayne, 374 from South Bend, 139 from Anderson, 131 from Gary, and 121 from Evansville.
The final tally from the DOE finds that the level of participation in Indiana significantly exceeded what was seen in other states during the first year of voucher program implementation. For example, a similar program in Ohio brought in roughly 2,713 participants in its first year of 2007. The next highest first-year voucher participation rate came from the Cleveland Scholarship and Tutoring Program where in 1997 a total of 1,994 students participated in the program.
"As a licensed teacher, I have a special understanding of how important education is to my children and that's why I couldn't pass up the opportunity for them to benefit from the new voucher program," said Christina Boland of Brazil, Ind. "Since transferring my kids to St. Patrick School in Terre Haute, I have noticed a clear difference in each one of them. I cannot tell you how long it has been since my children were excited to go to school, and now they are happy to do so. I love seeing the joy in their faces as they start each new day and I wish that every parent could have the same experience."
The number of available vouchers for the 2011-2012 year was capped at 7,500 children. Next year the participation cap increases to 15,000 children. Limits on the number of vouchers will be removed in the third year of the program.
Although the student application window is currently closed, the Department of Education will release information at a later date to alert families when the next window to apply is open. The list of approved schools and eligibility requirements can be found at http://www.MyChoiceINed.com and http://www.doe.in.gov/schoolchoice.
Note: this is a joint press release from School Choice Indiana and the organization's partner groups including: The Indiana Non-Public Education Association, the Indiana Catholic Conference, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the American Federation for Children, and Agudath Israel.