By Megan Banta
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s voucher program could return just under $5 million to the state’s schools this year – nearly $800,000 more than last year, the state’s top school finance officer said Wednesday.
Melissa Ambre, director of the Indiana Department of Education’s office of school finance, told the State Budget Committee that the voucher program will result in a maximum of $4.9 million in redistributed savings statewide this year.
Her report was the latest update on the finances surrounding Indiana’s two-year-old school voucher program, which opponents say siphons money away from the public schools that voucher recipients leave.
Since state education funding is divvied up on a per-pupil basis, the schools those students leave lose out on the money – usually $6,000 or so – the state had been paying for that child’s education.
However, because school vouchers only cover up to 90 percent of the cost of a student’s private school education, the state gets back at least 10 percent of the per-pupil education funds set aside for those students that use vouchers. That remaining money is then pumped back into the statewide school funding formula.
This year’s $4.9 million is more than the amount distributed last year, when the state distributed between $4.1 million and $4.2 million in savings to 292 public schools and 63 charter schools.
This year’s funds also will go to public school corporations and charter schools. How much each corporation or charter school receives is based on its percentage share of state tuition support and a five-step formula.
The state also distributes money to schools annually based on ISTEP scores.
Wes Bruce, chief assessment officer for the Department of Education, told the committee this distribution totals $3 million this year.
Bruce said the amount each school receives will vary.
“Schools with the highest number of students that don’t pass the ISTEP tests receive the greatest benefits from this,” Bruce said.
Bruce said there are three tiers of funding, which are based on how far students are from a passing score, that also cause variation in how much money individual school corporations and charter schools will receive.
The State Budget Committee also heard from other state agencies and from state universities, including the Department of Natural Resources and Indiana University, and approved more than $29.1 million in funding for projects.
Megan Banta is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.