Indiana schools that discriminate receive public funding

It’s great that the firing of gay teachers by Indiana Catholic schools is generating national attention – and a great deal of outrage. But the bigger issue is that Hoosier taxpayers are subsidizing this discrimination through the state’s voucher program.

And the incidents in the news, involving three Indianapolis high schools, are just the tip of the iceberg.

Schools under the purview of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis are now being required to terminate teachers who are in a same-sex marriage, and those schools received $38.6 million in voucher funds in the 2018-19 school year, according to Indiana Department of Education data.

But Indiana law lets private schools that receive vouchers discriminate against against students and their families as well as against employees. As Indiana University professor Suzanne Eckes and other scholars have shown, voucher programs in Indiana and other states allow schools to exclude students on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

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Indy’s Catholic-to-charter school experiment comes to an end

Any other week, the announcement that the Padua Academy and Andrew Academy charter schools in Indianapolis were giving up their charters would have been big education news. Last week, not so much. The story got buried under reports of alleged ISTEP+ cheating at Flanner House Elementary charter school.

It was certainly a big deal when Padua Academy and Andrew Academy opened as charter schools, however. Formerly Catholic schools, they converted to publicly funded charter schools in 2010, a time when Catholic schools were struggling financially.

Rather than close the schools, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis created an independent board, ADI Charter Schools Inc., which got a charter from the Indianapolis mayor’s office to operate the schools – in the same buildings and with many of the same students, but without religious education. “These two schools are the first in the nation to be chartered by an archdiocese through the establishment of an independent board,” the ADI Charter website says in a history of the schools.

They did well academically for a time but have struggled recently. In spring 2014, only 39.7 percent of Padua students and 31.7 percent of Andrew students passed both the math and English ISTEP+ exams. Continue reading

Vouchers, takeovers – updates on ‘reform’

School’s out for the summer, but the news marches on concerning what’s euphemistically referred to as education reform.

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting story last week about school voucher programs helping reverse enrollment declines at Catholic schools. Reporters Stephanie Banchero and Jennifer Levitz focus, naturally, on Indiana.

In particular, the story centers on St. Stanislaus, the only Catholic school left in East Chicago, Ind., whose enrollment grew by 38 percent last year due to vouchers. “God has been good to us,” says principal Kathleen Lowry, neglecting, apparently, to give thanks to Gov. Mitch Daniels, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, who sprung the voucher program on an unsuspecting public in the 2011 legislative session.

“The most impressive gains for Catholic education have happened in Indiana, where the nation’s largest voucher system rolled out last year,” the WSJ says. “More than 2,400 children used state-issued vouchers to transfer from public to Catholic schools. Another 1,500 used vouchers to move to other religious or private schools.”

One rationale for vouchers is that they offset the damage to Catholic education done by the expansion of charter schools. Some parents send their kids to Catholic schools not for religion, but for an alternative to the local public schools. If that’s all you want, why not opt for a charter school, where taxpayers pay the freight.

A recent analysis by the consulting firm Praxis Insights found that charter schools were a “significant and growing factor” behind the decline in Catholic school enrollment in New York. Continue reading