Voucher Expansion Brings Hope to Families 

Finally qualifying for school choice program, mom reflects on new opportunities ahead

As a child, Candace Pate’s mom wanted her to have a strong foundation in her education.

Using Indiana’s Educational Choice Charitable Trust Program—America’s first privately funded choice program—Candace’s mother was able to send her to a private school for Kindergarten through second grade, giving her the foundation necessary for lifelong success.

“I am a product of choice. I was raised in a single-parent home, and my mom wanted me and my two siblings to have a private education,” Candace said. “But she didn’t have the funds to do it. Even at an early age, I saw a significant difference when I went from a private school to a public school.”

Candace and her siblings

When she became a mom herself, Candace wanted private education for both of her children, but it was just out of reach.

“I found myself in a situation of wanting to be able to afford private school, but still having a love for the nonprofit world,” she explained. “I wasn’t making the income that I needed to be able to pay for private school, but I really wanted my kids to get that experience.”

Candace’s oldest daughter received an academic scholarship to attend a private school, while the other attended one of Indiana’s public charter schools.

Overtime, Candace noticed a difference in the education her daughters were receiving.

“One day, our oldest was talking about how they were dissecting a shark in class, and the parents were able to volunteer and participate,” Candace recalled. “Our youngest said it wasn’t fair that her sister got to experience science while she just got to read about it. It was at that moment, my husband and I paused and realized, ‘Wow, something has to be done here because this isn’t working.’”

Candace began travelling the country to over a dozens of states to share her story with parents and community leaders. As Indiana policymakers debated expanding eligibility in the state’s voucher program earlier this year, she testified in front of lawmakers on behalf of the program.

“Today, what matters most is educational fit, not school type,” said EdChoice President and CEO Robert Enlow, explaining that educational choice in Indiana has been on the move since the voucher program was created in 2011. “Any family is free to choose any option—public, private, charter, online or at home— that is best for them.”

In part due to Candace’s work, Indiana’s choice scholarships were expanded to include nearly all students, and for the first time this year, both of her daughters qualify.

“We are very grateful because it (Indiana’s voucher program) makes a significant difference in helping us both pay for school and ensure our child has a great educational experience,” Candace reflected. “I think it’s important to empower parents across the country and let them know that there are other options out there and resources to make it happen.”

Now, Candace is one of the founding members of EdChoice’s new Parent Corps, a grassroots group of parents and family members who are working together to share the power of choice within their own circles of influence.

“I wanted to advocate and be involved in this movement to stress to the parents, school boards, faith and community leaders, and legislators that parents want all types of different options for their kids, not just options based on their income.”