Black students in cities underrepresented in vouchers

Indiana’s private school voucher program launched in 2011 with a promise that it would help students from low-income families transfer out of low-performing public schools. The implication was that many of those students would be students of color.

But the program has evolved, becoming more of a state subsidy for parent choice and religious education. And, in some urban districts, Black students are significantly less likely to take part in the program than white students, according to Indiana Department of Education data.

Statewide, students receiving state-funded tuition vouchers are less likely to be white and more likely to be Hispanic than Indiana’s overall public-school enrollment. The percentage of Black students is about the same, just over 11%. (That’s a change; in the program’s early years, 30% of voucher students were Black).

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Race a factor in public school choice

Students who use Indiana’s public school choice option to switch to a different school district are more likely than their peers to be white and less likely to be from low-income families, according to school transfer data from the Indiana Department of Education.

In many cases, the students are transferring from racially diverse districts to districts that are mostly white and less poor. The data suggest that public school choice, regardless of its intentions, has contributed to students being more segregated in schools by race, ethnicity and family income.

For example, 90% students who transfer out of Anderson Community Schools are white, compared to the 53% of students attending schools in the district. Most Anderson students transfer to nearby Frankton-Lapel, Alexandria and South Madison districts, where 90% of students are white.

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Moneyed interests call the shots

They say legislators are supposed to represent the people who elect them, but what, exactly, does that mean? Do they represent the people who voted for them? The people who live in their districts?

Or do they look out for the businesses and organizations that made their election possible through campaign contributions? Judging by the actions of the Indiana General Assembly, it may be the latter.

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