This post was written by a woman in Indiana who requested anonymity to protect the identity of her step-son.

The Reality of Indiana Vouchers

My husband’s child goes to an expensive private Catholic high school in Indianapolis. By a divorce agreement, my husband must pay for the child’s education at this school. To respect privacy, I will call the child “A.” If the administrators of the school were to figure out that A was the subject of this account, A would be expelled even though there are only a few weeks to graduation.

A started at the private school in the 2013/14 school year. At the time, my husband had the financial resources to pay the $20,500 per year tuition and fees. Cancer put an end to his career in the middle of A’s 9th grade school year and suddenly the ability to pay for this school by a court order was in jeopardy. After a discussion with the business office at the private school, it was determined that my husband would qualify for financial aid, but he would have to apply for the state voucher to get the financial aid. My husband had a very public career where he spoke out against vouchers and worked in politics to defeat voucher legislation. Even though he was politically and morally opposed to the vouchers, he was in a position where he had to participate.

“A“ had difficulty with the school from the very beginning of the Freshman year. Teachers often reminded A of the exclusivity of the school, and how A was lucky to be attending, as a reprimand for poor performance in their classes. A’s mother and my husband were encouraged to have A evaluated, and the determination was made that A was depressed and needed counseling. The school psychologist told A and the parents that they should not reveal the depression to the school because A would most likely be “kicked out,” and not allowed to finish the year.

The psychologist changed the diagnosis to ADHD, the mother put A on medication and A was required to be enrolled in the school’s “Learning Center,” a resource room for students with special needs. My husband and the mother of A asked for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for A, but the school failed to provide the IEP, and there was never any goal or plan for A in the Learning Center, only that A have access to the center. The Learning Center added an additional $2,500 per year to the cost of the school and was often short staffed by only one teacher for over 200 students.

“A” was required to take AP classes and the tests for the AP courses. Although A always scored well on tests, classes were a struggle. Teachers offered A little help and berated A for asking for help. Not once were we contacted or informed about A’s struggle keeping up with homework and assignments. Once we found out, my husband encouraged me as a teacher to assist A with homework and A welcomed the help. A’s mother objected to my participation and went to the school to have both my husband and myself banned from the school premises and outside activities. This was done without any meetings with the principal, any discussion of the issue or any legal proceedings barring us from the school.

In other words, we had no rights as parents of a student to dispute the mother’s claim, although we were required to pay the $6,000 of tuition left after the financial aid and voucher payments, we were not allowed to set foot in the school that we were scraping every penny together to pay for.

In the following years, A continued to have issues with the school because of our economic status. To participate in sports activities (which we could not attend), we had to fork over nearly $1,000 for equipment use and uniforms; band was out because we would have had to purchase or lease instruments for far more than we could afford; class trips or field trips were off the table because of the cost and the requirement that we provide transportation, pay for expensive air travel. The ultimate embarrassment came from having A’s car driving privileges rejected because the 1999 Honda Civic we provided for A to drive was “too old” and did not meet the safety criteria for student vehicles.
A eventually had far too many classroom issues for the school to tolerate in the upcoming senior year; A had to bring up the grades or face expulsion. At the same time, our financial aid was cut in half and we had to pay $10,000 after financial aid and voucher money was applied for the senior year tuition, an amount that was completely out of reach for a family that lived on a teacher’s salary and social security. We worked out a payment deal with the school and A could stay if grades improved which they did. A went on to take the ACT and SAT and received a perfect score on the ACT and a few points shy of perfect on the SAT. Suddenly, the student that was near expulsion was the golden child and the private school took all the credit for A’s remarkable accomplishment. The school wanted to use A’s high test scores as part of a marketing campaign that would claim the “poor kid” on financial aid and vouchers could succeed only because of the private school, not the efforts of A. If we agreed to this exploitation of A, the school would waive half of the $10,000 we owed. Of course, we did not agree. Loans from amazingly wonderful family and friends helped us pay the balance and A will graduate in a few weeks and go on to a state university with a full scholarship next school year.

Private schools are not a good fit for all students. They don’t allow the students and families any rights, the primary interest of the school is financial, and they are accountable to no one. It is clear to me and almost anyone else that had been in our situation, that the sole purpose of state vouchers is to support the students that already attend private schools, and to promote economic segregation. Vouchers fit into the ideology of those that believe there are those deserving of “good” education, and there are those who only deserve training that allows them to function in society; and that is an abuse of our tax dollars but most importantly of the children.

The state of Indiana had to fork over $21,000 in tax dollars to help pay the tuition of religious school that denied A and the family of our rights, forced A to be labeled with a learning disability that was false, blocked A from the normal high school activities such as band, sports and even just driving to and from school because of our economic status. I am sorry we had to do that to the state, but I am sorrier for A and what A had to endure to go to the “good” school. I hope one day these vouchers will stop, solely for the sake of kids like A.