I am thankful to be a part of a community like Lafayette, Indiana that values education and also values the individual rights and responsibility that families share in choosing the best school to meet their child’s unique learning needs. For the past 18 years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a collegial and supportive relationship with many of Tippecanoe County’s educators and interact with thousands of students and parents. The administrators, teachers, staff members of our local schools are passionate, hard-working, and are truly seeking to make the Greater Lafayette Community one to be proud of.
Over the past few years, Indiana’s School Choice program has received its fair share of criticism. School choice is NOT about subsidizing schools. Rather, it is about empowering parents to make independent choices to find quality educational options for their children. I really believe that school choice can be a win-win situation for families and communities across our state. Faith Christian School has chosen to participate in this Department of Education program because we believe that educating a child is foremost a parent’s responsibility, and we want to be able to help as many students from low and middle income families to get a quality academic education in an environment that best fits their values and learning needs.
Recent reports have indicated that school choice costs the state additional money. The fact is, a choice voucher will always cost less than public school tuition because it cannot exceed 90% of the cost of attending a public school. If the over 29,000 school choice students had enrolled in public school, they would have cost taxpayers approximately $184,231,866. According to the DOE, choice payments for 2014-15 was $115,923,831. That saved taxpayers $68,308,035. The average cost of a public school pupil is $6,321, while the average choice expense is $3,977 per student.
What about standardized test scores? Test scores at Faith Christian have remained fairly consistent since the inception of the school choice program. We have been awarded a 4 Star School award 2 out of the last 3 years which is similar to many of the non-public schools in the Lafayette community. The good news is our public schools have seen an increase in A or B grades since the inception of school choice in 2011. If student performance is the most important indicator, it sure doesn’t seem that the school choice program is hurting public schools.
For the past 18 years, FCS has provided families the opportunity for a Christ-centered education. We have enjoyed working with and alongside other educators and schools in our town to do the very best job in educating the young people of the Greater Lafayette Community. We may have differing philosophies and/or methods, but the ultimate goal is common: To help parents educate their children!
The school choice program is constitutional because it allows parents to make an independent choice (religious or not) regarding the best education option for their child. In the universe of choice, parents should have educational options in the non-public sector as well. I believe that non-public schools naturally provide parents with educational options for their children. When options are present, citizens and communities both benefit. An educational choice for families also provides good competition that ultimately increases the effectiveness of all schools.
For true school improvement we must all be committed to strengthen a family’s choice for education. Schools should look for ways to help and improve their commitment to meet the academic, spiritual, social and vocational needs of students. Faith Christian School and other non-public schools desire to be a blessing to our community. We want to educate and prepare students to be effective and responsible citizens, and in turn we hope to strengthen families through the educational choices that are made available to them. I believe that the school choice program has not only strengthened students and parents, but both public and non-public educational institutions as well.