School choice in Indiana

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School choice refers to the educational alternatives available to parents who do not wish to send their children to the local district public school to which they are assigned. Public school choice options include open enrollment policies, magnet schools and charter schools. Other options include traditional school vouchers, scholarship tax credits, personal tax credits and deductions and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to receive public funds directly for educational expenses.[1][2]

School choice options in Indiana include: charter schools, a school voucher program, tax credits, and intra-district and inter-district enrollment policies. In addition, about 10.22 percent of school age children in the state attend private schools, and 3.02 percent were homeschooled.

Educational choice options

See also: Number of schools by school type in the U.S.

Charter schools

According to the Indiana Department of Education, there were 75 charter schools throughout the state as of June 2014.[3]

Charter school authorizers are, according to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, the organizations "designated to approve, monitor, renew, and, if necessary, close charter schools." As of May 2013, the following organizations were listed by the Indiana Department of Education as charter school authorizers:[4]

Indiana charter school authorizers
Organization Authorizer type Number of schools overseen
Ball State University Higher education institution 41
Mayor of Indianapolis - Office of Education Innovation Municipality 27
Indiana Charter School Board Independent chartering board 3
Evansville-Vanderburgh Community Schools Local education agency 2
Lafayette School Corporation Local education agency 1
Daleville Community Schools Local education agency 1
Grace College Higher education institution 1
Trine University Local education agency 1
Source: National Association of Charter School Authorizers, "Indiana Charter Authorizers," accessed June 18, 2014

School vouchers

Indiana is one of 13 states (plus the District of Columbia) that provide state-funded school vouchers. The following are the eligibility criteria:[5]

  • Household income up to 150 percent of the free and reduced price lunch guideline (FRPL)
  • Students with an Individual Education Plan and a household income not exceeding 200 percent FRPL
  • Students whose neighborhood schools have been assigned an "F" grade by the state and have a household income not exceeding 150 percent FRPL
  • Students who have received either a voucher or a tax credit scholarship in the past with a household income not exceeding 200 percent FRPL

In order to qualify for vouchers, students must have attended public school for the two previous semesters (this requirement is waived for students whose neighborhood schools have been assigned an "F" grade by the state or who have received a tax credit scholarship in the previous school year).

Participating private schools must be accredited by either the state or a regional accrediting agency. Schools must also administer state assessments to voucher recipients and conduct annual teacher performance evaluations.

Tax credits

The state offers a tax deduction to individuals who make education expenditures on behalf of their dependent children. Any taxpayer whose child is already enrolled in a private school or is homeschooled may claim a $1,000 deduction per child.[6] The state also offers a 50 percent tax credit to individuals and corporations who make contributions to approved Scholarship Granting Organizations.[7]

Online learning

Indiana does not sponsor a state-led online learning program. Statewide, there is one full-time virtual public school (the Achieve Virtual Education Academy). In addition, as of the 2010-11 academic year, there were two full-time online charter schools enrolling 617 students.[8]

Private schools

In the 2011-12 school year, 106,090 students, or 10.22 percent of school age children, were enrolled in 672 private schools. Indiana ranks 20th highest in the nation in private school attendance.[9]

Public school open enrollment

Indiana allows for both intra-district and inter-district open enrollment. Under the state's intra-district enrollment policy, parents in the Indianapolis school district may choose the school within the district that their child or children will attend. Under the state's inter-district enrollment policy, a student's parent (or the student himself or herself if he or she is 18 years old) may request a transfer from the student's school to another school outside the district. In some inter-district enrollment situations, tuition must be paid to the transfer school.[10]


In Indiana, an estimated 35,236 students, or 3.02 percent of the total student-aged population, were homeschooled in 2012-13.[11] The Indiana Department of Education notes the following legal considerations for home schools and non-accredited private schools:[12]

  • 180 days of instruction: According to the Indiana Department of Education, "you decide which days your school will be in session, and how long to teach each day. In the case of mid-year transfers, days attended at the first school count toward the 180 day total at the homeschool."
  • Attendance records: "There is no special form for these records, which are used to verify private school attendance. Please note that the law allows local public school superintendents to request copies of your child's attendance records to verify attendance."
  • Instruction equivalent to that given in the public schools: "State law does not define equivalency of instruction for public or private schools. If there is ever a question of educational neglect, keeping good attendance records and other documentation regarding attendance and continuing educational activity is highly instrumental in addressing these concerns."
  • Curriculum: "State law exempts home schools from the curriculum and program requirements which public schools must follow."

Studies and reports

Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

In 2014, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice published a description of and commentary on school choice options in the United States. Regarding Indiana's voucher program, the group said, "Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program is the fastest growing voucher program in the country. Still, the program is lacking in some areas. The voucher amount is below half of what the public schools receive. Also, the income eligibility level is too low for higher-income families to participate. Lastly, schools are required to allow the state to review classroom instruction, instructional materials, and curriculum, and administer the state test. The program has ample room to grow by providing the parents with increased funding and eligibility and lowering regulations on private schools."[13]

The full report can be accessed here.

School choice ballot measures

See also: School choice on the ballot and List of Indiana ballot measures

Ballotpedia has tracked no statewide ballot measures relating to school choice in Indiana.

Recent news

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See also