Indiana school voucher program called into question

(file photo)

A new study calls Indiana's school voucher program into question.

The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability report says there's no reason to subsidize Indiana School vouchers with public tax dollars. The group, which identifies itself as "a bipartisan, nonprofit research, and advocacy think tank," looked at school voucher programs in other states that have been operating for decades. The results found students using vouchers to attend private schools do no better than those in public schools.

The study also concluded that "at-risk students" who live in poverty, are learning English, or have special needs and attend public schools out-perform those who attend charter or religious private schools.

"The bottom line is even staunch supporters of vouchers have come to the realization that vouchers in and of themselves do not help students achieve to higher levels academically," said Ralph M. Martire with the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.

The study also reports that the competitive model vouchers are based on hasn't worked here or anywhere else. Indiana lawmakers who oppose vouchers seized on the findings Thursday.

"We started out with vouchers saying that it was going to enhance student achievement. So if it is not going to enhance student achievement as this data shows, then one must ask the question, 'Why are we going to continue doing it?'" said Sen. Earline Rogers (D-Gary).

Governor Mike Pence disagrees. He was out Thursday promoting the state's first-ever tax-funded preschool program. He is a big supporter of school vouchers and wants more money for them.

"I don't agree with that. I truly do believe that there is nothing that ails education in Indiana that cannot be fixed if we give our teachers more freedom to teach and if we give our parents more choices in public schools and for disadvantaged schools," said Pence.

Indiana's school choice program is as popular as it is controversial. Almost 30,000 children currently use vouchers to attend private schools.