For Indiana families, 2011 is already promising to be an exciting year for educational opportunity. Governor Mitch Daniels recently told the Courier-Journal that he will push to enact an education voucher program for low-income students, which would provide them with scholarships to attend a private school of their choice. The News-Sentinel editorialized on the plan, writing:
Gov. Mitch Daniels wasn’t kidding when he said one of his goals for the last two years of his term was major education reform… The real stunner, though, is his proposal for a true school choice plan, a voucher system that would allow parents to use state funds to offset the costs of sending their children to private schools. If the governor can pull that one off, it would far surpass both the toll road lease and daylight saving time in sheer audaciousness… Poor students are the ones most in need of a good education. How can we deny them the ability to shop for the best school?
Daniels is likely to get support for his bold school choice agenda. Speaker of the Indiana House, Brian Bosma, is a strong school choice proponent, and State Superintendent of Education, Tony Bennett, supports Daniel’s education agenda “without question.”
Across The Hoosier State, parents and local leaders are getting motivated through a new campaign called “Why not, Indiana?” Robert Enlow, President and CEO of the Foundation for Educational Choice noted that the campaign “asks the questions many Hoosiers want answered. Why not provide our kids with a personalized education? Why not allow families a choice of private, charter, magnet, and public schools, with a wide array of options?”
More quality educational options are clearly needed. While just 34 percent of Indiana fourth graders are proficient in reading, minority students fare far worse. Among African American fourth graders, just 15 percent are proficient in reading.
Providing an escape hatch out of underperforming public schools can help narrow this gap and raise achievement levels for all students in Indiana. Parents, taxpayers, and local leaders can look to existing school choice programs in Washington, D.C., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Ohio, as well as tax credit programs in states like Florida and Arizona, for proof of the power of parental choice. Not only are Indiana parents more likely to be satisfied with their children’s education if vouchers are on the table, but student achievement will likely increase, and graduation rates are likely to climb.