BY BART DOAN
AVON — Area parents hoping to gain more knowledge about the variety of options available to their children when it comes to picking a school will get the opportunity to learn when School Choice Indiana pays a visit to Kingsway Christian School here at 7 p.m. July 9 for an informational session.
According to information from School Choice Indiana, Inc., more than 9,000 students statewide, including 100 from Hendricks County, took advantage of the voucher program this past school year.
School Choice Indiana is a non-partisan, statewide organization dedicated to the principle that providing parents with choices in the education of their children will improve educational outcomes and the quality of education in both private and public schools.
“For our organization, it’s really about meeting the individual child’s needs,” says Marissa Lynch, field director for School Choice Indiana.
She said the informational night will help parents understand what the voucher program is, how to see if they qualify for it, and then discuss the tax credit scholarship program.
Recent legislation by Gov. Mike Pence that took effect July 1 is aimed at expanding the voucher program.
“We want to empower the parent to say ‘you can make a decision on where your child is going to learn the best and fit their individual needs’ so each child is thriving in their learning environment,” Lynch said. “Really what (the legislation) does is allows more families to access the voucher program.”
She said that ostensibly, the legislation allows special needs children to access the program, and children who are currently enrolled in a private school who meet income requirements can apply for the tax scholarship program.
Lynch said the onus is on School Choice Indiana to make sure the message is getting out there and that families at least know the options available to them.
“The goal is to get out into as many communities as we can over the course of the summer to let parents know what their options are,” she said.
She said the tour thus far has been well received.
“So far, it’s been pretty positive,” she said. “I think (attendees) walk away with a better understanding with regard to their children’s individual eligibility. There is a tax deduction, and that is for families in private or home schools in grades kindergarten through 12. They can take up to a $1,000 tax deduction for curriculum, textbooks, uniforms, anything they may have to buy or purchase.”
She said the other added benefit to the program will be to give a better understanding about the impact the voucher program really has across all schools.
“I think one of the common misconceptions is that it takes money away from public schools, but the way it’s crafted is that the individual child at most can only receive 90 percent of the funds they could have received at the local public school districts,” she said, noting that extra funds go back into a funding formula that is redistributed to all public schools throughout the state.
Lynch said other add-ons include protection against a slight income improvement in the family that will still allow them to keep their children in the private school that is meeting their needs as well as a provision that allows siblings of a child receiving a voucher to also gain the same access, so families can now have all of their children at the same school.
She said the program will also cover eligibility requirements and the application process. Parents wanting to gather a better grasp of their eligibility before the meeting can fill out an online form that will give them the answers at myschoolvoucher.com.
When parents receive a voucher, the state helps pay for tuition at a private school, depending on the family’s income. Students qualifying for the federal free-and-reduced lunch program ($43.568 for a family of four) are eligible for a voucher worth up to 90 percent of the state tuition amount for the school district of residence.
Children from families who earn up to 150 percent of the free-and-reduced lunch program (around $63,352 for a family of four) can receive a scholarship for up to 50 percent of the state tuition amount.
Kingsway Christian School is at 7979 E. C.R. North, Avon.
Just the facts
WHAT: School Choice Information Meeting
WHEN: 7 p.m. July 9
WHERE: Kingsway Christian School in Avon