October 2018 Church & State | People & Events

Students taking part in a private school voucher program in Indiana are lagging behind public school students academically, a new study has noted.

Researchers looked at the state’s program, the nation’s largest. They studied thousands of low-income Indiana students who used vouchers to switch from public to private schools beginning in the 2011-12 school year.

Focusing on students in grades five through eight over the course of four years, the study found the voucher students consistently scored worse in math than their public school peers. The results for English pro­ficiency were a wash.

Chalkbeat, an education blog, wrote, “[T]here were no statistically significant positive effects after four years.” The results are in line with a prior study of the Indiana program.

Under the voucher program, Indiana diverts more than $150 million per year in taxpayer money away from public schools and into private schools.

“Although school vouchers aim to provide greater educational opportunities for students, the goal of improving the academic performance of low-income students who use a voucher to move to a private school has not yet been realized in Indiana,” wrote the study’s authors.

Meanwhile, an examination of Flor­­­i­da’s new voucher program, which supposedly will help students who are being bullied, shows that the plan is likely to end up fostering discrimination instead.

The Huffington Post website reported that most of the schools taking part in the program are religious in nature and don’t have to follow anti-bullying and antidiscrimination laws as public schools are required to. Many of these schools discriminate against LGBTQ students – a population that’s a major target of bullying.

The news website found that of the 70 schools that had signed up for the new Florida voucher program, at least 10 percent had a “zero tolerance” policy for LGBTQ students. The report cited student handbooks that noted prohibitions on homosexuality or refer to it as “an abomination to God,” and curriculum and textbooks that “promote regressive or hateful ideas about LGBTQ people, women and non-Christians.”