The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update

Local Education

July 17, 2013

Parents have more school choices

ANDERSON, Ind. — With an expansion approved by the Indiana Legislature, students now have more options when it comes to eligibility for vouchers. But it’s not just vouchers they have access to.

School Choice Indiana’s Kent Martin was at Liberty Elementary School on Tuesday evening to discuss those options with parents.

”I don’t think (school choice is) important,” he said. “I think it’s necessary.”

Despite an increase from about 3,900 students in 2011 to 9,300 in 2012 on vouchers, many families were still left behind with eligibility requirements, he said. This year, however, school choice scholarships have opened to those who have children who’d be attending failing schools or already have siblings on a voucher.

Here’s a look at the voucher requirements (all students must be Indiana residents):

General vouchers: Families must be at 150 percent or below the federal free and reduced lunch income guideline and the child must have attended a public school in Indiana the previous year or received a tax credit scholarship. Families can reapply for a voucher if they remain in 200 percent of the free and reduced lunch program.

”F” school voucher: Families must be at 150 percent or below the federal free and reduced lunch income guideline and the child must be assigned to an “F” public school. The Indiana Department of Education rates schools each year and assigns them a grade.

Sibling voucher: Families must be at 150 percent or below the federal free and reduced lunch income guideline and have one sibling within the household who’s received a voucher or tax credit scholarship the previous school year.

Special needs voucher: Families must be at 200 percent or below the free and reduced lunch program and students must have special needs.

Families can either receive a 90 percent or 50 percent voucher depending on their financial situation. Income guidelines can be found at www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/governance/notices/iegs/iegs.htm.

Tax credit scholarships are available to students whose families are at least 200 percent or below federal free and reduced lunch income guidelines, and schools that receive private donations to help pay for a child’s education can set the limits lower, Martin said. Those who donate the money receive the tax credit.

Private school and homeschooling parents can also take out tax deductions on their state taxes for education costs.

Amanda Spencer said she’s a stay-at-home mom, so vouchers and tax credit scholarships offer more choices for her children. She’s looking at Liberty Christian as an option, partially because she feels it’s a safer environment.

Body Copy:Vanessa Case’s youngest is at Tenth Street Elementary, but her older children are homeschooled, she said, because the school they would be in, Highland Middle School, received an “F” from the IDOE last year.

Body Copy:She said “public schools are failing children” so having choices is important.

There were about 30 parents in attendance Tuesday. Martin said School Choice Indiana has traveled to over 100 schools this summer and seen upwards of 90 people in a crowd.

“Just getting information out to parents so they know their options” is the goal, he said.

The deadline to apply for vouchers is Sept. 1. Parents seeking a voucher or tax credit scholarship must contact the school they’re interested in.

Like Dani Palmer on Facebook and follow her @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.

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