We moved to Indiana in 2005, and at that time we enrolled our kids at a Christian School. Our son attended there from 3rd grade on up through 8th grade. Our oldest daughter attended from kindergarten through 4th grade, and our youngest daughter went there for kindergarten.
Three years ago the economy went south, my pay changed at work, and we could no longer afford to keep all three kids enrolled at the school. So we elected to keep our son enrolled and homeschool the girls (since he was oldest). After a year of that, we realized that we simply couldn’t afford the school at all for any of our kids. We have homeschooled all three kids for the past two years.
Indiana started a private-school voucher program a few years ago where they would allow certain families to send their kids to private school with a financial subsidy paid by the state (which means taxpayers, let’s not forget). I looked into the program at the time, but our school was not one of the schools listed, so I didn’t look into it further.
A few weeks ago we were informed that, not only had the state of Indiana made some changes to the law, widening it for use by more people, but also, as of the 2013-2014 school year, our Christian School will be one of the schools on the voucher list. This means that, if our kids qualified, we would be able to receive help paying for their school. Considering the fact that the taxes we have paid for the past eight years have gone to pay for the public education my children never took advantage of, I received this news with excitement.
Then I did the homework and realized that my children do not qualify…..this year. The qualifying conditions for admission in the program are twofold:
1. First you must have a financial need. There is a chart showing different incomes for different family sizes. If you make more money than the number on the chart for the number of people in your family, you don’t qualify.
2. Next, you must meet one of two conditions. Either your children must already attend a public school, or you must live in a public school district that is receiving a failing grade from the state.
If you meet these conditions, your children qualify for the voucher program, and the private school where you enroll your children will receive funding from the state equal to either 90% or 50% (based on your income level) of the funding your local school district would have received if you had put your child in public school.
I called my local school district and was told that the per-student funding was approximately $4700 for last year. That means that, for my family of five, if I made less than $51,000, my kids would get funding of $4230 per kid. That would pay the entire bill for their schooling at the Christian School. Unfortunately (ha!), I make just over that, so we would fall into the category of people who would receive 50% of the per-student funding, or (in our case) $2350. This means that we would get funding that covers the difference in what our homeschooling costs, and what private school costs. So we’d be paying the same as we are paying now, but the kids would get to go back to private school. Yaay!
But, unfortunately (ha!) we don’t live in a failing school district. This means that, in order to participate in this program, at least one of our children would have to attend public school for the 2013-2014 school year, and then all three of them would qualify for the voucher program for the 2014-2015 year (another provision added by the Indiana legislature this year: one kid’s attendance qualifies all his or her siblings).
So yesterday we registered our youngest daughter at our local elementary school. She is excited because she will be going to school with all the girls in the neighborhood with whom she plays every day. We decided to send her because we feel it would be more of a shock for our older daughter to go to eighth grade or our son to go to eleventh grade, both after being homeschooled for years. Plus, the exposure to the things we don’t like about public school would be less in fourth grade than it would in junior high or high school.
This fall our youngest daughter will go to public school for one year. Our two oldest will continue to go to school in their pajamas. And, Lord willing, next fall all three of our children will go back to the Christian School. Thank you, Indiana legislature, and thank you, Governor Mike Pence, for making this a possibility.