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Private voucher school caught cheating taxpayers

Years’ worth of missing voucher money. Bounced checks to the State of Indiana. Violations of state law. This is just some of what the public learned on Wednesday about a private voucher school in Crown Point. The details were disclosed in an Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) investigation shared with the State Board of Education.

After IDOE discovered Midwest Elite failed to administer ISTEP and IREAD, the department made a visit to the school last spring. IDOE staff found the school failed to keep basic student records like enrollment and special education forms. Also missing – voucher records.

IDOE discovered that Midwest Elite failed to refund the state voucher money the school received for students who left the school during the school year. This led the state attorney general to get involved to collect the missing voucher money.

After multiple communications from IDOE and the attorney general, the school did pay back some balances. However, on multiple occasions the school’s checks to the state bounced. The state was able to recover some payments this year by deducting the balances owed from the voucher payments being paid for current students at the school. As of the date of the report to the board, the school still owes the state voucher refunds.

Compounding the issue of mishandling tens of thousands of tax dollars, students at Midwest Elite have had a less than stellar education. The last known grade given to Midwest Elite was a D in 2016 – 17.

How many more private voucher schools are cheating taxpayers? Considering private voucher schools do not have the same strict accountability that public schools must comply with, we may never know.

Last year, the Indy Star profiled another private voucher school which was mishandling voucher funds. Unlike Midwest Elite, Todd Academy remained open and kept receiving new voucher money until the school closed – despite an investigation by the attorney general’s office.

Local taxpayers have little power to hold private voucher schools accountable with their tax dollars either. Unlike public schools, who have elected school board members, private voucher schools are privately-run with little to no public oversight or input.

We encourage lawmakers to protect taxpayers and students by holding private voucher schools to the same fiscal accountability as public schools.