ANDERSON — Private school administrators in Madison County tend to favor the Indiana Choice Scholarships, which allows low-income parents to pay for private school tuition using public dollars, while public school officials wish they didn’t exist.
Liberty Christian School Superintendent Jay McCurry admits he’s a huge supporter of vouchers. About 70 percent of the school’s students attend on vouchers, he said.
“It just really affords families to allow families to attend a Christian school where their income may not have allowed it otherwise,” he said. McCurry said vouchers should not be seen as a statement that private schools are necessarily superior. They just allow parents to have a broader base of educational options to choose from for their children.
“We support all schools,” he said. “When all schools flourish, then the community flourishes.”
Though some object to the use of vouchers on the grounds that private schools aren’t held to the same standards as public schools, McCurry said being an institutional recipient of vouchers isn’t easy. When accepting public money, he said, schools must follow the same rules as public schools.
“There’s a lot of red tape. There’s a lot of hoops that you have to jump through,” he said. “If we hit an F grade, we are in jeopardy of losing any future voucher students.”
McCurry admitted private schools aren’t necessarily equired by state law to use licensed teachers.
However, most good schools want to be accredited, and under the rules of the Association of Christian Schools International, 80 percent of his faculty must be licensed.
“Every one of our teachers are degreed, either bachelor’s or master’s in their teaching field,” he said.
Kevin Plew, administrator at Indiana Christian Academy, said he wasn’t sure how many of his school students attend on vouchers. However, the stability represented by the dollars they bring in has allowed the school to expand its offerings. Those include dual-credit, math and computer classes.
“We’ve been able to offer a few more classes that have helped out students,” he said.
Anderson Community Schools Superintendent Timothy Smith said he has no way of knowing how many students are lost to vouchers as opposed to simply moving or being home-schooled because that is not tracked by the state.
Smith said he doesn’t mind that parents have choices in terms of how to get the best education for their particular children.
“In the world of education people have choices, and I have no issues at all with people who send their children to private or parochial schools,” he said.
“What I don’t agree with is to take money away from public schools to allow students to go to those parochial schools.” When money is diverted from public schools, which must be available to all students at all times, it diminishes a district’s ability to operate at maximum capacity, Smith said.
For instance, the state distributes money based on the number of students enrolled on a particular date in September.
However, if a student moves back into the public school district mid-semester or midschool year, the money isn’t pro-rated to follow the student. That means the district is faced with an unfunded mandate to educate the child, taking away from the students who were there all along.
“That could cost us an actual teacher,” he said.