The setting was significant Thursday when Gov. Mike Pence signed House Bill 1003, which expands Indiana’s school voucher program. He signed it at Calvary Christian School, a small Pentecostal school on the south side of Indianapolis that enrolls voucher students.
The governor praised the voucher expansion for giving more “choice” to parents and students. However, you can only choose Calvary Christian if it chooses to let you in. “Families expect a higher level of achievement and behavior at CCS,” the school’s handbook says, “and as such the admission process requires that incoming students’ records be carefully reviewed.”
What about children with special needs? “We do not have the staffing to educate children that are in special needs classrooms,” says an FAQ on the school’s website.
And what will students learn? According to the website, the curriculum includes textbooks from fundamentalist Bob Jones University Publishing, which feature creationism based on a literal reading of the Christian Bible and an ideologically slanted view of America’s place in the world.
Is it a high-performing school? It got an A last year on the Indiana’s rating system because most of its students pass state exams – not surprising for a school that can pick and choose students. But its student growth scores, based on test-score improvement, were well below average.
Signing HB 1003 at Calvary Christian raises a genuine question about the purpose of Indiana’s voucher program. Is it about helping students and families? Or is it about providing taxpayer funding for religious education?