More vouchers for current private school students

INDIANAPOLIS - A growing number of Indiana students receiving school vouchers already are enrolled in private schools, a new report released Monday by the Indiana Department of Education said.

Education Department analysts found that roughly 40 percent of students -- about 7,800 children -- who received vouchers for the 2013-14 school had never enrolled in Indiana's public schools. The other 60 percent, about 12,000 children, had spent at least a year in public schools.

The report tracked the first three years of Indiana's school voucher program, and bore out some of the promises of its staunchest supporters along with some of the criticisms of detractors.

Voucher opponents have derided the program as draining money from public schools to subsidize private and religious schools. Monday's report showed growth of so-called "non-public" voucher recipients beginning to cost the state more money, although vouchers still ended up saving Indiana about $5 million last year, because a typical recipient only receives up to 90 percent of what is spent on a public school student.

Robert Enlow, president of the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which supports vouchers, said the report showed vouchers improve options for low-income families throughout the state. Ethnic minorities have accounted for close to half of recipients for the past three years.

"There are still high percentages of children of color in private schools, plus a small increase in the metropolitan users. Plus the market, as it were, is becoming more diverse (note growth in choice as percentage of total, and the growth of all options)," Enlow wrote in an email Monday.

Indiana's school voucher program is one of the most expansive in the nation and also one of the quickest growing, but accounts for a small portion of the state's roughly 1 million students.

A bargain struck in 2011 between former Gov. Mitch Daniels and voucher opponents required recipients to have spent at least one year in a public school before receiving a voucher. But lawmakers approved a modest expansion last year that eliminated that requirement for some students.

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