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Study indicates voucher program is failing, but not everyone agrees

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new study indicates Indiana Choice Scholarships, commonly referred to as the voucher program, are ineffective and expensive. According to the research, the programs cost about $115 million a year for Indiana alone.

The research was done by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, or CTBA. CTBA is a bipartisan, nonprofit, think-tank based in Chicago. Some lawmakers are looking to end the program but not everyone is on board.

It’s test day for Lilly Snodgrass in chemistry class. Lilly’s a junior at University High in Carmel. University High is a college prep school. She used to attend public school.

“At Sheridan, I wasn’t academically challenged. Here, there is definitely a difference,” said Snodgrass.

Lilly is able to attend, thanks to the voucher program. It awards scholarships to low income kids so they can attend private schools.

“I feel like my grades actually improved. I feel like here, because I’m challenged, I’m more engaged in learning,” said Snodgrass.

During a news conference Thursday morning, representatives from CTBA discussed results from a study. They say there is no evidence that voucher students performed better and added that traditional school students outperformed private school kids. State Senator Earline Rogers hopes to phase out the program eventually.

“We’ve got evidence and we’ve got data that says this does not enhance student achievement. I think Indiana needs to take a look at that data,” said Rogers.

Rogers, a former teacher in Gary, said too many tax dollars are going toward the program.

“Dollars going toward vouchers have grown while dollars going toward public schools has lessened,” said Rogers.

University High’s Director of Admissions Nancy Webster said the program has been successful at her school.

“Our voucher kids are performing well, but I’d encourage people to look at that happiness factor (and) self-worth, which may not be able to come through in a simple test score,” said Webster.

Governor Mike Pence weighed in. He said he’ll continue to provide resources to traditional schools but has no plans of cutting vouchers.

“The demand is there and parents of disadvantaged kids have been able to open doors of opportunity to alternatives in education,” said Pence.

Education, Lilly will wisely receive.

“I’m more of a math and science person, but I don’t know. I have a lot of ideas,” said Snodgrass.

The voucher program allows students up to around $5,000 a year toward tuition.