November 2018 Church & State - November 2018

Indiana Private School Dropped From State Voucher Program

  Rob Boston

A private school in Indiana that received $140,000 in taxpayer funding last year was abruptly dropped from the state’s voucher program in light of allegations that it was in violation of program requirements.

Midwest Elite Preparatory Acad­emy in Crown Point, described as a non-sectarian but Christian institution, was accused of failing to test students and report student data. The school also reportedly failed to return excess voucher payments, reported the education site “Chalkbeat.”

The site reported that the Indiana State Board of Education voted unan­imously to remove the school from the voucher program.

It’s unclear how many students will be affected by the move. According to “Chalkbeat,” only 29 pupils were attending the institution. The school, which serves students in kindergarten through grade 12, was approved to accept vouchers in 2013.

Under Indiana’s voucher program, participating private schools are required to test students and report results to the state. Problems arose last year when state officials charged that the academy failed to test students properly. By the time school administrators contacted state officials to get copies of the test, it was too late to meet the deadline.

Ronda T. Payne, the school’s chief executive officer, told the Northwest Indiana Post-Tribune that she was unable to administer one test because the school lacked the proper computer-based technology. 

“They had a new program with new rules,” Payne said. “Every time I would call the state, the people on the other end knew less than I knew.”

Shaina Cavazos of “Chalkbeat” wrote, “In some ways, the allegations against Midwest Elite are a textbook example of the potential perils of a statewide education voucher program. Public school advocates can point to Wednesday’s vote as a victory – mishandling state dollars confirms their fears about mixing public and private entities. And for champions of school choice, the allegations are so damning that they could draw attention away from the opportunities they believe vouchers provide to families.”

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