Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program was enacted and launched in 2011 and is now one of America’s largest school voucher programs. It is currently available to low- and middle-income families. Learn more about the program’s details on this page, including eligibility, funding, regulations, legal history and more.
Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program allows students in lower-income families to receive vouchers to attend private schools.
Students from families that qualified for the federal free and reduced-price lunch (FRL) program ($47,638 for a family of four in 2019–20) can receive a voucher worth up to 90 percent of the state per-student spending amount for the sending school district. Students from families earning between 100–125 percent of FRL ($59,547 for a family of four in 2019–20) may receive vouchers worth up to 70 percent of this amount. Students from families that earn between 125–150 percent of FRL ($71,456 for a family of four in 2019–20) can receive a voucher worth up to 50 percent of the state funding allocation for the sending district. Families can supplement vouchers with additional funds. Students eligible to receive district-allocated special education funds are now eligible to use those funds for special education services at a voucher-accepting school.
Children must be between ages 5 and 22 to receive a Choice Scholarship. In addition to this age requirement, there are eight additional eligibility pathways which, if any one is met, qualifies a student for a voucher. These are: (1) students who have received a Choice Scholarship the previous year and are from families that earn up to (but not exceeding) 200 percent of FRL ($95,275 for a family of four in 2019–20), (2) students who are prior Choice Scholarship recipients from families that earn up to (but not exceeding) 150 percent of FRL ($71,456 for a family of four in 2019–20) and (a) received the voucher two or more years prior to applying or (b) received the voucher in the immediately preceding school year but exited the program prior to the end of the school year, (3) students who previously received a School Scholarship Tax Credit award and are from families that earn up to 150 percent of FRL, (4) students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and are from families that earn up to 200 percent of FRL, (5) students who attended or would attend a public school designated F and who are from families that earn up to (but not exceeding) 150 percent of FRL, (6) students who attended a public school (including a charter school) for the preceding two semesters and who are from families that earn up to 150 percent of FRL, (7) students or siblings of students who previously received a voucher or a tax-credit scholarship and who are from families that earn up to 150 percent of FRL, and (8) students who used an Early Education Grant to attend prekindergarten at an eligible Choice Scholarship school in which they intend to enroll for kindergarten and are from families that earn up to (but not exceeding) 69 percent of FRL ($32,870 in 2019–20).
Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program is the largest statewide voucher program in the country. Still, the program is lacking in some areas. The average voucher amount is below half of what district school students receive. Also, the income eligibility level is too low for many families to participate. Lastly, participating private schools are required to administer the state test and allow the state to review classroom instruction, instructional materials and curriculum. The program has ample room to grow by providing parents with increased funding and eligibility and eliminating unnecessary regulations on private schools.
Ind. Code §§ 20-51-1 through 12
On March 26, 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in a landmark 5-0 decision that the Choice Scholarship Program does not violate the state constitution and that constitutional prohibitions against government funding of religious entities does not apply to entities providing primary and secondary education. Meredith v. Pence, 984 N.E.2d 1213 (Ind. 2013)
The case began July 1, 2011, when teachers’ union officials and others challenged Indiana’s voucher program in state court, alleging the Indiana Constitution prohibits funding of religious schools. A Marion County Superior Court denied a motion for preliminary injunction. The trial court granted summary judgment January 13, 2012, in favor of the program. Meredith v Daniels, 49D07-1107-PL-025402 (2012)
The Court held, “First, the voucher program expenditures do not directly benefit religious schools but rather directly benefit lower-income families with school-children by providing an opportunity for such children to attend non-public schools if desired. Second, the prohibition against government expenditures to benefit religious or theological institutions does not apply to institutions and programs providing primary and secondary education.”
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