That is the price tag to taxpayers for the voucher program in Indiana to pay for private and religious school tuition.
$53 Million in one school year, 2015-16!
The cost of the program was detailed in the Choice Scholarship Annual Report released by the Office of School Finance of the Indiana Department of Education on July 18, 2016.
The voucher program didn’t start out as a cost to taxpayers. As the report clarifies, in the first two years of the program, the state saved over $4 million dollars each year because a number of students transferred from public to private schools, and the transfers saved the state money.
Starting after the massive expansion of the program passed in Governor Pence’s first legislative session in 2013, eligibility rules were changed enabling many private school students who had always been in private and religious schools to get a voucher. Adding these students to the count of state-paid students added their full cost to the state totals with no offset of savings as is seen when a public school student transfers to a private school. Hence, the fiscal costs to the state ballooned.
As seen in the chart below summarizing the findings of the Office of School Finance, the voucher program has grown from a savings to taxpayers to a massive expenditure:
Dr. Dalton’s Question
Dr. Bob Dalton, as he advocated passionately against taxpayer funding for private school tuition, always concluded with a direct question to legislators: What is the fiscal cost of the voucher program?
Dr. Dalton, a founding board member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, passed away last year after a 63 year career of leadership and advocacy for public education. He is sorely missed.
Now his question, which was ignored by legislators for years, can be answered.
What is the fiscal cost? $53 million in 2015-16 and growing every year.
What has been the fiscal cost adding all five years together? $100 million after five years.
Bob would be horrified.
The total payments the state made to private schools for tuition, as seen in the chart, were $131 million, but that is not the fiscal cost to taxpayers. That is the total amount diverted from public schools to private schools. That means there is a $131 million dent in the budgets available to public school students. That outcome is bad enough for public school students.
In most cases, however, the state saves some money when students transfer from a public school to a private school. Since the 2013 voucher expansion allowed many students already going to private schools to get a voucher, they were new to the state-funded count and added a new cost to the taxpayers. When the Office of School Finance of the Indiana Department of Education weighed out all savings and cost factors, they found that the net cost to the state was $53 million, using the formula for savings set by the General Assembly itself in 2011.
Would the Voucher Expansion Have Passed Had the True Fiscal Cost Been Known?
If Governor Pence had stood before the legislators in 2013 and said that his voucher expansion would cost taxpayers $53 million per year, would the bill have ever passed?
I doubt it.
If he had said he wanted to give a subsidy to private school parents of $53 million which is more than Indiana pays for summer school ($18 M), preschool ($10 million), technology ($3 million), English language learners ($10 million) and Gifted and Talented programs ($12 million) all added together, would the bill have passed?
I doubt it.
Dr. Dalton’s concerns are vindicated.
It is up to the General Assembly to reign in the voucher program and rebalance our priorities. The expansion of private school vouchers has to stop. Over one million public school students are in need of additional resources to reach their full potential.
Do the citizens of Indiana want ever expanding voucher programs and Educational Savings Accounts to privatize our public schools bit by bit?
That is a question the voters will answer in the November general election.
I hope all public education advocates will participate in the vitally important general election of 2016, our bicentennial year.
Thanks for your support of public education!
“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!
ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support ICPE lobbying efforts. As of July 1st, the start of our new membership year, it is time for all ICPE members to renew their membership.
Our first 2016 membership meeting for all members and for all who support public education who might consider membership is set for Saturday, August 27, 2016 at 2pm at the Dean Evans Center of the Washington Township Schools. Candidates for State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick and Glenda Ritz will address our meeting in separate presentations and the ICPE Legislator Report Card will be released giving a letter grade for support of public education to the 104 incumbents running for reelection to the General Assembly. Come and join us on August 27th!
Our lobbyist Joel Hand continues to represent ICPE during the 2016 short session. We need your memberships and your support to continue his work. We welcome additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!
Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!
Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:
I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.