A letter from Betsy Wiley, IQE President and CEO
Not all children learn the same way, so it is unfair to assume that one type of schooling can meet every child’s learning needs. More Indiana families, parents and students could be benefiting from school choice, but nearly two in five parents of children attending traditional public schools report not knowing about the many options available to them.
This National School Choice Week, and every other week for that matter, the Institute for Quality Education is focused on informing Indiana families about the wide range of quality educational opportunities available to all students. Indiana remains a national leader in providing Hoosier families the freedom to choose the school that best meets the individual education needs of each child.
Hoosier parents and families have the freedom to choose from a variety of education options, including: traditional public schools—both inside and outside district lines— charter schools, virtual or online schools, magnet programs with specialized curricula, private schools, and home school.
Indiana’s leaders, both Democrat and Republican, have made providing every student access to educational options a priority. Governor Frank O’Bannon signed Indiana’s first charter school law in 2001 and former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson became the first mayor in the nation to serve as a charter school authorizer. Under the leadership of Governor Mitch Daniels and a strong legislature led by House Speaker Brian Bosma and former Senate Pro-Tem David Long, Indiana sprang to the head of the class in 2011 with the passage of sweeping education reform which included such things as creating the Indiana Choice Scholarship (or voucher) Program, expanding the tax credit scholarship program, and enhancing our charter school laws.
According the Indiana Department of Education during the 2017-18 school year, 17% of Indiana’s 1.1 million students chose to attend a school other than the public school they were geographically assigned. Unfortunately, many families do not know about the options and resources available to them. A recent study conducted by EdChoice entitled “Why Indiana Parents Choose,” revealed 51 percent of Indiana parents who identify as low-income, and nearly one-third of all parents whose children attend traditional district schools, do not know about Indiana’s school choice programs.
Students can choose to attend their neighborhood public school, a traditional public school in a different school district than the one they live in, a charter school, an innovation network school, a magnet school or a virtual charter school free of charge. There are also options for families who want their child to attend a private school. Both the Indiana Tax Credit Scholarship Program and the Indiana Choice Scholarship program provide financial aid to students from families that meet the income guidelines. The amount of financial aid a student can receive is calculated based on the student’s household income and is used to help with the cost of tuition to attend a private school. These programs expand access to all schooling options for all families, especially private school options that were previously unaffordable to low-income families.
There are several informational resources for parents and families who want to know more about educational choice, one such resource is My School Options. This website contains information about all of Indiana’s K-12 schools and the various school choice programs available. It also contains a calculator to determine what type of financial aid families might qualify for if considering a private school, and information on how to apply for those benefits. These tools help ensure that all families who want to participate in educational choice are informed and equipped to do so.
This National School Choice Week, Jan. 20-26, parents, teachers, students and advocates will participate in over 40,000 events nationwide to celebrate the many achievements of students benefiting from and schools participating in school choice.
In Indiana, we will focus on spreading the positive message of school choice to all families because every child deserves the opportunity to choose the educational option that best meets their unique learning needs.