Photo: Rabbi A. D. Motzen, Agudath Israel of America’s National Director of State Relations, with Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb.
The largest school voucher program in the country is about to get bigger.
Yesterday, the Indiana General Assembly overwhelmingly voted in favor of a budget bill that includes the first major expansion to the state’s two school choice programs since 2013. The package gives middle income families access to the program, increases the voucher amount for many students, and creates a new program for students with special needs among other measures.
“Ten years after enacting a groundbreaking statewide scholarship program,” said Rabbi A. D. Motzen, Agudath Israel of America’s National Director of State Relations, “Indiana is once again leading the nation in providing parents with educational options for their children.
The final budget deal included $1.9 billion in new education funding. Thanks to the strong leadership of Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning and Speaker Todd Huston in the House, and the support of Governor Eric Holcomb and Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray, that funding will help all Hoosier children, regardless of where they attend school.
Agudath Israel has been part of the state’s school choice coalition for more than a decade and thanks the Institute for Quality Education, Indiana Non Public Education Association, EdChoice and other coalition partners. A special thank you goes to the parents and community leaders who reached out to elected officials during the legislative session.
Highlights of the school choice measures included in the budget:
- Extends income eligibility for the voucher program from 150% of the federal reduced lunch program eligibility threshold ($71,456 for a family of 4) to 300% ($142,912). The income eligibility will also go up to that same level for the tax credit scholarship program.
- Sets the scholarship amount at 90% for all eligible students. Currently, some scholarship students only receive 50% or 70% of the amount the state would have provided for the child in the local public school. For a district like South Bend, that means all students can receive a scholarship of up to approximately $6,200.
- Increases the annual cap on scholarship tax credits to $17.5M in FY 22 and $18.5M in FY 23
- Creates a new $10 million Education Savings Account (ESA) program for children with special needs, who meet the 300% income threshold mentioned above. These funds can be used for pre-approved educational expenses such as therapies, private tutoring, tuition and fees at approved private schools.