INDIANAPOLIS -- More Hoosier students are attending the charter and private schools of their choice using taxpayer dollars.
An Indiana Department of Education report shows the use of vouchers had grown exponentially in just five years' time.
The number of students and state dollars invested in the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program is nearly eight times what it was in 2011.
Supporters say it opens the door to more opportunities.
Opponents argue vouchers take money away from traditional public schools.
Karinya Chrisler says her son Nicholas was able to move to a school that was a better fit for him thanks to vouchers.
"I just wasn't happy with the way that school was working for him at the time," she said. "The school he ended up attending worked out better for him. It gave him a different type of discipline. It held him more accountable. It was more diverse."
The number of students like Chrisler's son has steadily increased in the last five years. Numbers from the state show a jump from 3,900 students in 2011-2012 to more than 32,000 in the current school year.
Two factors have played a role in that: There's no longer a cap on the number of vouchers; and more students are now eligible.
Students are no longer required to spend two semesters in a public school. And now, more than half who use vouchers haven't.
The state paid close to $113 million in vouchers last year.
The Indiana Coalition for Public Education released this statement about the voucher report
The new report shows that public schools in Indiana stood up well in last year’s intense choice competition. The increase in vouchers is the lowest in the 5 year history of the program.
The report actually shows that in the past year even with taxpayer vouchers, a smaller percentage of students attended private schools, going from 7.5% to 7.48% of all Indiana students enrolled.
The problem is that while private school attendance is not expanding, tax money going to private and religious education is ballooning because the 2013 voucher expansion law allowed more students who had always been in private schools to get a voucher at taxpayer expense. They did not make a new choice, but they still got state money for the voucher. In fact, the report showed that 52% of all voucher students have never attended a public school, up from 50% last year. The law is now helping a minority of the voucher students transfer to a private school as originally intended, but the majority of voucher students are now having taxpayers subsidize the private and parochial education that had already been chosen.