Education choice reaps financial benefits in Indiana

Mooresville Christian Academy in Mooresville, Indiana, is one of 969 nonpublic private schools in Indiana that serve 111,872 students.

Editor’s note: You can listen to Step Up For Students president Doug Tuthill’s interview with Indiana state Rep. Bob Behning here.

School choice legislation in Indiana has resulted in savings for the state of $88 million, or about 1 percent of its annual general fund spending on education, in the 2019-20 school year according to a new study from Ball State University.

Using data on 2019-20 student transfers between Indiana’s 289 traditional public school districts, transfers between traditional public school districts and charter schools, and transfers between traditional public schools and private schools accepting the Choice Scholarship, researchers from the university’s Center for Business and Economic Research examined differences in state funding if these transfer students had attended the traditional public school in the district in which they reside versus the enrolled district or school.

Another finding: More students transferred out of schools with the highest per-student funding than into them.

“The biggest winners in terms of receiving transfers are local public schools,” said Michael Hicks, one of the study’s authors. “So, the number one group of people in the state who have moved from one school to another are those who have moved from one local public school to another local public school nearby. And then, number two is from a local public school to a charter school. And number three is from a local public school to a private school with a voucher.”

School choice has been available in Indiana since the 2011-12 school year, providing families the option to choose whichever school they want, including private and charter schools. The state started offering vouchers that cover up to 90% of children’s private school tuition to low-income families to help them afford private schools the same year.