School Choice Takes Root in Indiana, But More Work Remains
Cory is a student at Indiana University
The Chicago Tribune recently published an article titled “Idolizing Indiana” in which it touted the recent and most expansive school choice voucher program in the nation as the model for all other school choice programs. There is truth in that praise. Indiana has made vouchers more accessible and more comprehensive than any other state. House Bill 1003 provides a family of four earning up to $61,000 eligibility in voucher assistance for education. Further, within three years, there is no cap on the amount of students who can receive voucher assistance.
However, despite HB 1003 being the most expansive in the nation, there is still progress and improvements that can be achieved and pushed for in the bill. This is not to diminish the effect the bill will have on students attempting to escape the confines of public education, but just because a bill has been passed does not require that the push for greater educational reform be dropped. Advocates of school choice programs should push for more, with fewer regulations imposed on schools accepting vouchers and greater accessibility for all students.
The question remains, with such an expansive program, what else can be improved upon in the state of Indiana in regards to school choice programs? For one, advocates of school choice in Indiana should push for fewer regulations that are imposed on schools accepting vouchers. Regulations have the effect of decreasing competition in the long run through aligning practices in one direction, disallowing alternative and varying forms of education. Therefore, two regulatory requirements should be focused on: the removal of lottery admittance and compliance with state standards in education.1
When voucher-student demand for admittance into a particular school exceeds the capability of that school to provide admittance, then the state requires that the school administer a lottery, wherein admittance is determined through probability. This requirement is most problematic for religious schools, wherein it greatly diminishes the ability of that school to craft the atmosphere it desires. Thus, the requirement has the potential to undermine the vision of the school’s administration and parents.
Compliance with state standards in education is also problematic in that it has the potential to diminish the achievements of schools accepting vouchers in the long run. Private schools accepting vouchers will be forced into compliance with state standards and requirements in education, and wherein these standards are not met, consequences will be aligned. This requirement effectively captures the essence of the private school: the creativity and freedom in varying methods of education that allows the administration to test various methods and discover those that work in the greatest capacity for their students. Without the ability to venture into new methods without the state’s politicized approval, gains could stagnate in the long run.
Advocates of school choice programs in Indiana should be celebrating – HB 1003 will undoubtedly help a lot of students who are trapped in the public school system to escape, but improvements can be made and should be advocated for. The regulatory framework attached to HB 1003 can be eliminated, which would allow greater gains in educational achievements. Work in improving the educational system in Indiana is far from over, much like how the individual’s education never ceases.
1 Schaeffer, Adam B. “Regulations Imposed on Voucher-Accepting by Indiana House Bill 1003.” Cato Institute. August 2011. http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/wp-content/uploads/Regulations-Associated-with-HB-1003-Indiana-2011-05-20.pdf.