Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program was enacted and launched in 2011 and is now one of America’s largest and fastest-growing school voucher programs. It is currently open 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 can receive a voucher worth up to 90 percent of the state per-student spending amount for the sending school district. Students from families that earn 150 percent of that same threshold 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 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 participate. Eligible students include: (1) students who attended a public school (including a charter school) for the preceding two semesters and who are from families that earn up to (but not exceeding) 150 percent of FRL ($68,265 for a family of four in 2017–18), (2) students with disabilities that have an Individualized Education Plan and who are from families that earn up to (but not exceeding) 200 percent of FRL ($91,020 for a family of four in 2017–18), (3) 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, (4) students or siblings of students who previously received a voucher or a minimum of a $500 tax-credit scholarship from a scholarship-granting organization or (5) students who received a voucher in the previous school year under this program and are from families earning up to (but not exceeding) 200 percent of FRL.
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 4
On July 1, 2011, 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 judge denied a motion for preliminary injunction. The trial court issued a summary judgment January 13, 2012, in favor of the program. After an expedited appeal was granted, the Indiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the program November 21, 2012. On March 26, 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in a 5-0 decision that the Choice Scholarship Program does not violate any provision of the state constitution. The Court ruled, “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. Meredith v. Pence, 984 N.E.2d 1213 (Ind. 2013).