Family FAQs

Education Policy

Q Do teachers have to be licensed in Indiana?

In most cases, public school teachers in Indiana teachers must be licensed.  School districts can request the Department of Education to grant an Emergency Permit if the school is experiencing difficulty in filling a specific content area.  Individuals who receive an emergency permit must possess a Bachelor’s degree and commit to working towards licensure.  IC 20-24-6-5 allows no more than 10% of a charter school’s teachers to be unlicensed.  Unlicensed charter teachers must be in the process of obtaining their license or hold a Bachelor’s degree in the content area they teach.  

Q How is student achievement used to determine pay raises for teachers?

Ultimately this is a local decision and included in the bargained contract, however, state law prohibits a teacher who receives an evaluation rating of “ineffective” or “improvement necessary” from receiving a salary increase.  To review the result of your local teacher evaluations, click here

Q Is student achievement tied to a teacher's evaluation?

Yes. The General Assembly passed a law (SEA 1) in 2011 which requires student achievement and growth to significantly inform evaluations of teachers and administrators. Each school corporation has the flexibility under the law to determine what percent of a teacher’s evaluation is based on student achievement data.  

School Funding

Q Do vouchers take money away from public schools?

No. Public schools have two sources of funding: state and local money. The money that follows the student in the choice scholarship program is state money. All the local tax dollars stay with the traditional public school district, regardless of how many children go to school there. When students leave to attend another school, the local district gets all the local money but they are educating less kids. This means the public school actually gets more money per child. Money is NOT being taken from the local district's budgets. In fact, savings from the program are re-distributed to the traditional public school districts throughout the state.

 If parents are satisfied with the education they are receiving in a public school, they won't leave. We need to stop selling our public schools short by assuming everyone will leave if given the chance.

Q How much money does Indiana currently spend on K-12 education?

Nearly $8 Billion or 53% of the State Budget goes towards K-12 education.  Additionally, 41% of local property tax dollars that are collected fund traditional public schools. Approximately, 60 cents for every dollar we spend on education makes it into the classroom and the remaining 40 cents is put towards non-instructional expenses. 


Source: Dollars to the Classroom Report: Indiana Office of Management & Budget

Q How is school funding determined in our state?

Each biennial budget that the General Assembly passes includes a school funding formula as well as other categorical funds that flow to Indiana’s K-12 schools.  The funding formula includes a base foundation amount, a complexity index (which designates more money to schools with higher populations of low-income students), additional funds for special education students, career and technical education students, and $1,000 per each student who graduates with an honors diploma.  


The average per pupil funding amount for the 14-15 school year is estimated at $6,632.  Separate appropriations in the state budget include state funding for testing, remediation, textbook reimbursement, Advanced Placement and PSAT programs, gifted and talented programs, school performance awards, technology and English language learner programs. For more information: http://www.in.gov/legislative/bills/2013/HE/HE1001.1.html

Charter Schools

Q What is a charter school?

Charter schools are public schools that are nonsectarian and nonreligious and operate under a charter, or a contract between a charter authorizer and operator. Charter schools are typically governed by an independent board of directors and receive some flexibility from state regulations in return for stronger accountability. Charter schools are establishing according to IC 20-24 to serve various styles and needs of public schools students with innovative instructional models. Any non-profit entity operating with a 501 (c)(3) designation can organize and apply for a charter with one of the state's charter authorizing boards.

If more students apply than there are seats available, a lottery must be held. Choice scholarships (vouchers) cannot be used to attend a charter school because charter schools are free, public schools. 


Charter schools are required by law to give state standardized assessments (ISTEP, IREAD, and ECA) and be graded on the A-F school grading system like all other public schools. By law, charter schools are subject to closure after four consecutive years as an F rated school. Traditional public schools must fail for six consecutive years before the State Board of Education (SBOE) can intervene.


Approximately 80 charter schools are currently serving more than 35,000 students across Indiana. For more information: http://www.doe.in.gov/idoe/charter-schools; http://iga.in.gov/documents/25d52c75



Q Are charter schools funded differently than traditional public schools?

Yes.  Charter schools are public schools that are required to accept all students, but they receive less funding than traditional public schools because they are not allowed to collect local property tax dollars like other public schools.  In Indiana, traditional public schools receive local property tax dollars to build and maintain buildings, pay for utilities and provide transportation.  Charter schools instead must find other ways to finance and maintain their buildings and provide transportation to students.   

Q Are charter schools operated by for-profit companies?

 In Indiana, an authorizer may only grant charters to organizers that are 501(c)(3) non-profit corporations as designated by the IRS (IC 20-24-3-2). Public charter schools, like traditional public schools, may elect to contract with for-profit providers for educational and/or management services. Public charter school boards are held to the same state requirements, open meeting laws and transparency. Any for-profit company contracted for services answers to the non-profit governing board.


Regardless of who operates the school, open-enrollment policies  must apply. Charter schools are held to higher performance accountability standards than traditional public schools and receive less funding.

Accountability

Q Are voucher schools held to the same accountability standards as public schools?

Voucher schools have higher accountability standards than their public school counterparts. 1. If a voucher school receives a D or F grade for two consecutive years, they can no longer accept students who are in the choice scholarship program 2. Traditional public schools can receive an F grade for six consecutive years before the State Board of Education is required to take action.

Q What is a "turnaround" school?

A turnaround school is a school that after six consecutive years remains in the lowest performance category (school letter grade = F) and is not closed or merged with another school.  Public Law 221 requires the State Board of Education (SBOE) to intervene in turnaround schools. For more information see: IC 20-31-2-10; IC 20-31-9-4; IC 20-31-9.5

Q Has Indiana always had accountability metrics for schools?

In 1999, the General Assembly passed House Enrolled Act 1750 which created Indiana’s accountability system and first required schools to receive an annual category placement.  This bill also set up the consequences for schools that remain in the lowest category placement for 6 consecutive years and become turnaround academies.  Federal school accountability, known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), was first established in 2001 with the passage of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.  

School Choice

Q What is school choice?

School choice allows parents the freedom to send their child to the school that best meets his/her needs- whether that is a traditional public school, public charter, virtual, private, or homeschool. 

Q Can my child attend public school in a district other than where we live?

Every public school district has the option of accepting students from outside their boundaries. Since 100% of state tuition support comes from the state, schools cannot charge transfer students a tuition fee for portions of their educational experience that are already covered by the state. In February of 2014, Legislative Services Agency reported there were more than 26,500 public to public school transfer students and approximately 76% of school corporations allowed transfer students. 

Q What is an education savings account (ESA)?

An ESA provides a consumer driven approach to educational options, and functions much like a Health Savings Account. Currently Arizona and Florida are the only two states that allow ESAs. A portion of a state tuition support is deposited in an account with defined, but multiple uses, including private school tuition, tutoring, and online education. Any money that is not used can be saved for future education expenses, including college.  

Q What if I decide to homeschool my child(ren)? Is there any opportunity for assistance?

Homeschool students are not eligible for the voucher program or a tax credit scholarship. Those programs can only be used at participating private schools. The parent would be eligible for a maximum of $1,000 tax deduction per child for state tax liability for unreimbursed education expenses. The Department of Revenue will provide further detail on this deduction.

Tax Credit Scholarship

Q What is a tax credit scholarship?

Tax credit scholarships are available to families who meet certain income requirements. Individuals and businesses may donate to this program to help low and middle income children attend a private school of their choice. All charitable donations to this program are eligible to receive a 50% state tax credit. Indiana law limits the total amount of tax credit scholarships that may be awarded to $15 million per year.

For a list of private schools that offer the Tax Credit Scholarship, click here: http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/choice/2014-07-10-sgo-participating-schools-2014.pdf

Q Are current private school students eligible for the tax credit scholarship program?

Yes. The 2013 General Assembly passed legislation allowing current eligible private families to use a tax credit scholarship. Using a tax credit scholarship for one year allows eligible families to apply for a voucher the following school year.

Q Does the tax credit scholarship program serve public schools?

Yes. A scholarship granting organization (SGO) can provide scholarships for tuition of fees for children enrolling in public schools outside of their school district so that their transfer fees are covered. This is up to the SGO and would only be available in those school districts that charge transfer fees.

Q What are the eligibility requirements for the Tax Credit Scholarship?

In order to be eligible for a Tax Credit Scholarship, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Indiana resident AND
  • Families that are at least 200%, or below, the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch 
    Income Guideline (SGOs can set limits lower)

Tax Credit Scholarship Program Income Guidelines:


Household
Size
Tax Credit Scholarship
(200% FR Lunch)
1$43,179
2$58,201
3$73,223
4$88,245
5$103,267
6$118,289
7$133,311
8$148,333
For each additional
family member, add:
$15,022


Note:

  • Based off of adjusted gross income.
  • This is based on 200% of the cap for Federal Free and Reduced Lunch
  • SGOs may set their income limits lower than 200%
  • Income levels are based on adjusted gross income for the household
For a list of private schools that offer the Tax Credit Scholarship, click here: http://www.doe.in.gov/sites/default/files/choice/2014-07-10-sgo-participating-schools-2014.pdf

Q Could a student who receives a voucher also receive a tax credit scholarship?

Yes. A student who meets the requirements for a voucher could qualify for a tax credit scholarship as well, provided that the combination of the two does not exceed tuition and fees.

Voucher Program

Q What is a voucher?

Voucher programs like the one in Indiana allow parents to use the state funding set aside for their children's education to send their children to the private school of their choice.

Q What are the eligibility requirements for a voucher?

The private school you're interested in having your child attend is responsible for determining whether the student meets the eligibility requirements (see below).


If eligible, you will apply for the school voucher with the school that has accepted your child(ren) for enrollment. Final voucher eligibility is determined by the Indiana Department of Education based on your completed application. 


To be eligible, a student must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a resident of Indiana
  • Be accepted for enrollment into a participating voucher school that is located in Indiana
  • Be between the ages of 5 and 22 no later than August 1 of the school year
  • Meet the income requirement (information in the chart below in What are the voucher household income limits for the 2014-2015 school year?)

AND MEET AT LEAST ONE OF THE FOLLOWING

  • Child attended public school the full previous school year AND entering 1st grade or higher
  • Child is assigned to an "F" public school for the 2014-2015 school year
  • Child has a sibling who received a voucher or tax credit scholarship in the 2013-2014 school year
  • Child received a tax credit scholarship from an approved SGO in the 2013-2014 school year. Approved SGOs are listed below:
    • Institute for Quality Education 
    • The Lutheran Scholarship Granting Organization of Indiana
    • Sagamore Institute
    • School Scholarship Granting Organization of Northeast Indiana
  • Received a voucher in any previous school year
  • Child has an IEP or ISP

Q What are the voucher household income limits for the 2014-2015 school year?


Household
Size
Larger
Voucher*
   Smaller
   Voucher**
     Re-Applying for a Voucher/Special Needs***
1$21,590    $32,385     $43,179
2$29,101    $43,651     $58,201
3$36,612    $54,918     $73,223
4$44,123    $66,184     $88,245
5$51,634    $77,451     $103,267
$59,145    $88,717     $118,289
7$66,656    $99,984     $133,311
8$74,167    $111,250     $148,333
For each additional
family member, add:
$7,511    $11,267     $15,022


To determine household size and respective income limits, include the following:

  • Parents
  • Grandparents
  • Children
  • Other relatives and unrelated people who live in your household

Any misrepresentations of household income could affect the student's eligibility.

Adjusted gross income should be used when determining income.

* 90% of funding in corporation of residence. This is the same income cap as the Federal Reduced Lunch Program
** 50% of funding in corporation of residence. This is based on 150% of the cap for Reduced Lunch
*** 200% Federal Free and Reduced Lunch. Income levels are based on Adjusted Gross Income for the household

Q Do voucher schools have to accept all kids like public schools do?

No. By participating in the program, non-public schools are agreeing to partner with the state in providing education for more Hoosier families. Their participation does not imply that they intend to be more like public schools. In some cases, participating schools may have academic requirements students have to meet in order to be accepted. However, Indiana law prohibits these schools from setting special requirements for students who receive financial assistance.

Q Do voucher schools require admission based testing?

A small number of voucher schools do require admissions based testing, but the majority do not. Only 18 schools have been identified as requiring a student to take an admissions test.

Q Are voucher programs constitutional?

Yes. In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Cleveland’s voucher program was in fact constitutional. In this landmark case, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote that programs like Cleveland’s are “neutral in respect to religion (because they) provide assistance directly to a broad class of citizens, who, in turn, direct government aid to religious schools wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice.” Other programs such as the Federal Pell Grant program and the GI Bill for veterans are similar in that they provide government funding to an individual who is then free to choose where they want to attend school.


 The Indiana Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Indiana’s program with a 5-0 vote in the case of Teresa Meredith et. al. v. Mitch Daniels (2013). Chief Justice Dickson wrote the 22-page for the Court stating, "We hold that the Indiana school voucher program, the choice scholarship program, is within the legislature's power under Article 8, Section 1, and that the enacted program does not violate either Section 4 or Section 6 of Article 1 of the Indiana Constitution."

Q Do voucher schools serve special needs children?

Most voucher schools do serve special needs children. In many cases, the schools that don't serve special needs children make that choice because they don't feel their school is properly equipped to serve those students.

Q What if I am a foster parent and would like the foster child to receive a voucher? Will our household income be included?

No. Under current state procedures, foster children are directly certified for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch program as well as textbook rental assistance. If official documentation can be provided that verifies the student's (current) foster status, the income verification process will not be required.


Notwithstanding additional guidance from the Department of Child Services (DCS) in the future, we recommend the school obtain an official e-mail from the local DCS caseworker confirming foster status, and then save this e-mail for the school's records.


Additionally, if your household includes biological children in addition to foster children, payments received for serving as a foster parent will not be included in the household income calculation (i.e. if one or more biological child applies for a voucher as well).

Q If a student receives a voucher and then decides to transfer within the same school year, what would happen to the voucher?

As a condition of participation in the program, the Department of Education will require prompt notification from your school if that happens. The school's receipt of voucher program funding for the student will be affected, depending on when the student withdraws.


The student would be able to change schools at the start of the following school year and apply for a voucher to do so if the household income requirements are still met and the new school participates in the program. However, the student cannot change schools during the year and use a voucher to attend the second school.

Q Can a school charge tuition/fees in addition to what is covered by a voucher?

Yes. The parent/guardian is responsible for any tuition/fees that the school charges beyond the voucher amount. You should also read carefully any agreement you sign with the school. The school's policies may include language requiring payment regardless of whether a voucher is awarded.

Q How is the amount of the voucher determined?

The scholarship is the lesser of the following amounts:

  1. Tuition and fees
  2. $4,800 (for grades 1-8 only)
  3. An amount based off of the funding the state gives per student to your local school corporation, determined as follows:
  • LARGE VOUCHER = 90% of funding the public school would receive from the state IF the family income falls withing 100% of the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
  • EXAMPLE: Family of four that makes up to $42,643

  • SMALL VOUCHER = 50% of funding the public school would receive from the state IF the family income falls within 199% of the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
  • EXAMPLE: Family of four makes up to $63,964

  • SPECIAL NEEDS VOUCHER = 90% of funding the public school would receive from the state IF the family income falls within 100% of the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program.
  • EXAMPLE: Family of four that makes up to $85,286