A new school voucher system, whereby students can have up to 90 percent of the cost of tuition paid for them, has aided almost 4,000 Indiana students who have been attending private schools in the last year, writes John Martin at the Courier Press.
The program's first-year cap was 7,500, and although this was not reached, advocates of the taxpayer-funded scheme are said to be pleased with the participation level.
"We had only a short window to implement the program," said School Choice Indiana Executive Director Lindsey Brown.
"We were never concerned we were going to hit the cap."
"Other programs have had months to get started, get implemented, we did this in 6 to 8 weeks," added Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference.
The majority of voucher recipients are from metropolitan areas, while 15 percent from rural areas. 53 percent of voucher recipients are minorities. School Choice Indiana claims 85 percent of students who receive vouchers also qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch.
"It wasn't that the public schools were bad, but they wanted a school that shared their values or met their needs in a certain way," said Paul Bair, director of Evansville Christian School, which accepts vouchers.
Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporations officials say that they have lost some students to vouchers this year but also have accepted some transfer students from nonpublic schools.
Annabel Ortiz-Lopez is a parent of two children who are receiving vouchers to attend their schools. She said she is grateful for an opportunity she otherwise would not have had.
"We liked where we were before in public school, but ECS expects more out of the kids," said Ortiz-Lopez.
"(My kids) are excelling."
As the voucher law matures into its second year, as many as 15,000 will be awarded. It is thought that there will be no caps on the limits after that.
"We're not super-concerned about hitting the cap, but he longer the program is in place, the easier it will be to spread the word," Brown said.
"I think you'll see it grow quite expansively."