Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

January 29, 2013

Westside school hosting school choice info night

Bart Doan

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s School Choice voucher program continues to ascend in popularity, doubling to more than 8,000 vouchers issued this past school year from the previous year, but according to the Indiana Department of Education, that’s only about half the amount available to students.

With that in mind, Providence Cristo Rey, a 3-year-old private school on the city’s westside, will host School Choice Parent Information Night at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 30 to allow parents to learn about the voucher program, ask questions, and get information on a well of untapped scholarships that students could earn.

Kent Martin from School Choice Indiana will be on hand to explain the voucher system and the eligibility, and to talk about how parents can apply. There will also be a representative from Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program to talk about how students can apply to obtain money for college.

“I think the first thing that people wonder is whether they qualify or not,” said Andrea Fagan of Providence Cristo Rey High School. “The vouchers are tied to income qualifications so the first step in finding out is taking a look at your eligibility, based on income and household size.”

Fagan explained that voucher amounts are tied to the tuition of where the potential student is moving in coordination with what school they are leaving to go there.

“Let’s say they start out at a middle school in Wayne Township,” she said. “So there’s a certain value of the voucher that is fixed based on where they’re going to school, and so that amount of money is portable and offsets the cost of the school.”

Fagan said the maximum voucher amount would be $6,000, so if a student was moving to a school that had $12,000 yearly tuition, the student would still be responsible for making up the difference to attend.

As for PCRHS, it is a part of a model that includes 25 schools nationally where students go to school four days a week and then work the fifth day at an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job in an entry level, professional environment.

“The companies aren’t creating a desk in a corner,” Fagan said. “It’s a job that has a description and they get evaluated. Some are in the research labs (at Eli Lilly), working with the scientists. They’re going to get all the advantages that a professional setting provides, interacting with professionals and gaining skills that employers value like team building, behaviors, and how to collaborate with others.”

PCRHS has made an impact on westside students, as Fagan explains that the school accepts students who are intent on going to college, not just graduating from high school.

“It’s a neat model,” she said. “It takes a certain student. They have to be willing to do the hard work. They’re cramming five days of school into four and then going to work. It’s challenging. The outcomes are great though. We’ve had three graduating classes and every single one has been accepted to college with a 98 percent retention rate there.”

Fagan said that national network-wide, 70 percent of the students go back to work for their corporate work study employers, meaning that the jobs they’re working in high school lead to something stable down the road.

She also said that parents should want to come to the information night to learn about the litany of scholarship money that is left untouched, mostly because people don’t know about it. That’s where the 21st Century Scholarship program will come into play.

“People don’t realize there is all this money from the state to go to college,” Fagen said. “If these kids would enroll in the (Indiana 21st Century Scholarship program) and stick with it, they could go to college for free. Why leave money on the table? Only about half of the students who are eligible actually apply for it and there are a lot of kids missing out.”

PCRHS is at 75 N. Belleview Place, Indianapolis. For more information on the school, call 860-1000  or visit the website at www.pcrhs.org.

A list of schools that accept vouchers across the state can be found online at www.doe.in.gov.

Just the facts

WHAT: School Choice Parent Information Night

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Jan. 30

WHERE: Providence Cristo Rey High School