By State Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg)
In recent weeks, I have fielded concerns from constituents across Senate District 42 who believe the concept of school choice is detrimental to public brick-and-mortar school funding because students are leaving public schools for private schools. I would like to take this opportunity to address those concerns and clarify my position on the topic.
Since 2011, the state of Indiana has given parents the ability to choose where and how their children receive their education. Prior to 2011, many students were limited to attending a specific school based on where they lived.
Under our current system, funding follows each student, meaning a school is given state tax dollars based on its enrollment numbers. School choice isn't defunding public brick-and-mortar schools, because Indiana's education funding model doesn't fund schools – it funds the individual student, regardless of where they attend.
I firmly believe there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to education, and it is important that parents and families have the ability to enroll in a model that best fits their needs. Additionally, I believe it is important that, as taxpayers, parents get a say in how their money is spent.
In Indiana's most recent state budget, the General Assembly increased education funding by a historic $763 million, with 50% of our entire state budget going to funding K-12 education. This session, the Indiana General Assembly is considering proposals that may increase K-12 education by an additional $300 million.
Because funding follows each student, how those dollars are allocated reflects the educational decisions families are making for their children. About 92% of Indiana students are currently enrolled in traditional public schools, and about 93% of our money goes to these schools.
To date, roughly 3% of Indiana students participate in the school choice voucher system – the program that allows state tax dollars to follow students to private schools. The program receives about 3% of Indiana's education funding.
The number of students transferring from the school district they live in to a different school district is about double the number of voucher students. We now have about 70,000 students and their families exercising school choice through public-to-public transfer. This shows that school choice can benefit our public schools when they work to attract families.
As a member of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development, I will continue to advocate for policies that allow parents to make decisions that are in the best interest of their children. This is the fairest way to ensure that each and every child in Indiana is getting the best education for them.
If you have questions, comments or concerns about this topic or other legislation being considered in the General Assembly, please email me at Senator.Leising@iga.in.gov or call, toll-free, 800-382-9467.