After validating data collected in the past three months, the Indiana Department of Education reports that nearly 4,000 students from low- to moderate-income families are taking advantage of the Indiana Choice Scholarship program.
The number represents a diverse and robust cross-section of families and schools in every region of Indiana.
"Hoosier parents are more empowered than ever before in our state," Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett said.
"Demographics do not determine a child's ability to grow academically and should not determine the educational opportunities offered to any student," Bennett said. "When you connect a child's name and face to the Choice Scholarship program, it is easy to see the transformational results of increased educational opportunities."
Parent Oneita Johnson agrees. Her children are participating in the voucher program after transferring from a neighboring charter school; she indicates they have made significant improvements in the classroom.
"Myles and Kevin are more engaged in their learning, and they are really enjoying their new school environment," Ms. Johnson said. "As a single parent, this program has been a lifesaver. The best part is that their grades are improving and they are being challenged in new ways."
The Indiana Choice Scholarship program has been recognized as the widest reaching start-up voucher program in the nation.
Eighty-five percent of the students come from families whose household incomes qualify them for free or reduced lunch. Just over 30 percent of students are from rural and suburban Indiana, and more than half of the students represent minority households.
One of the most encouraging signs for the sustainability of the Choice Scholarship program is the robust participation from non-public schools. More than 250 schools have been recognized as Choice Scholarship schools and are able to accept students through the voucher program.
"The Choice Scholarship program embodies the principles of individual, economic and educational freedom," Bennett said. "The goal moving forward for community stakeholders and education reformers alike must be to increase awareness in the years ahead. All Hoosier families need to know they have a say in their children's education."
More information about the Indiana Choice Scholarship program can be found at http://doe.in.gov/schoolchoice.