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State board votes to allow voucher schools to bypass accountability

Four private voucher schools previously cut off from accepting new voucher students because of academic failure, have been given a reprieve from the Indiana State Board of Education.

Due to receiving a grade of D or F for two consecutive years, the private schools had lost their ability to take on new voucher students. The schools can retain their current population of voucher students.

The schools were given permission to bypass accountability laws created for failing private voucher schools thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Holcomb. ISTA strongly opposed the bill throughout the legislative session, because it gives failing voucher schools a pass for low performance and allows a new voucher pathway via new school accreditation – schools with no track record.

The waivers sought by Central Christian AcademyTurning PointLutheran South Unity School and Trinity Lutheran School were all recommended for approval by state board of education staff.

The private voucher schools have received $5.6 million in vouchers since 2014.

Three of the schools which were granted waivers today had already done so last month before the state board. However, the efforts failed for lacking a required six votes by the state board. Today, the vote was 6 – 2 to approve all four waiver requests.

Board members Gordon Hendry and Dr. Steve Yager were the board’s “no” votes.

The issue of accountability, and how the standards compare between private voucher schools and traditional public schools, was discussed at the meeting. Voucher advocates on the state board and representatives from the private schools stated that voucher schools are held to a higher standard than public schools.

“I would love to be held to the same standards as the public schools, because we would not be here today," said an administrator from Central Christian Academy.

Accountability for underperforming public schools entails the state taking over the school or in the case of charter schools, closure. Failing private voucher schools can remain open and operate, they just cannot continue receiving new voucher students. This is hardly the same standard.

Private voucher schools have little financial accountability, whereas public schools have open finances, fully accountable to the public.