With the deadline to apply for Indiana's school voucher program quickly approaching, thousands of spots still haven't been claimed, but supporters said they're pleased with the process.
When the Legislature approved the voucher program, it set a cap of 7,500 students for the first two years. So far, parents have applied for 3,685 spots, 6News' Norman Cox
School Superintendent Tony Bennett told the Education Roundtable on Tuesday that Indiana has had the best first-year response of any state that has adopted vouchers that allow kids to use tax money to switch to private schools.
Bennett also stressed that the money is going, as intended, to the neediest kids.
"Eighty-five percent of these children qualify for free and reduced lunch. So we are really giving folks that have never had a choice before an opportunity to choose the educational environment that's best for their children," he said.
Bennett said he's pleased with the geographic spread of the vouchers, with no single district taking a disproportionate number and 15 percent of the vouchers going to students in small-town and rural districts.
"As of our last count, we have no single district that comprises 20 percent of the students receiving vouchers," Bennett said.
The Indiana State Teachers Association said it isn't a ringing endorsement by parents that only about half the vouchers have been claimed.
But Gov. Mitch Daniels said the response is good for a first-year program and that he isn't discouraged.
"Again, this is the fastest uptake of any state that's done anything like it. There's still almost two weeks to go, so that number's going up some," he said. "But, you know, I think the pool on this has always assumed that you might get somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000. I guess we will."
Next year, the cap on vouchers goes up to 15,000.
Daniels said he doesn't know if applications will reach that number, but he said the goal was always simply to give parents a choice.
School Voucher Information
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