Embracing Accountability in School Choice

Posted on Sep 29, 2014 by Mark Muehl - News and Events - School Choice

Indiana's nationally acclaimed School Choice legislation has brought our Lutheran schools greater public attention.That's remarkable, because the Lutheran schools have a longer history here in northeast Indiana than the public schools. (Did you know that St Paul's Lutheran School downtown is the oldest continually operating elementary school, public or private, in the state?)And yet, School Choice has put us on the radar for some people. It's time for us to embrace that additional exposure and help families better understand the benefits of Lutheran education. School Choice offers us an opportunity to impact kids and families that we otherwise could not reach.School Choice brings both opportunities and responsibilities. Lutheran schools that choose to participate in Indiana Choice Scholarships (commonly called vouchers) must continually measure their educational effectiveness, maintain financial integrity, and meet high standards of excellence.Of course, our schools remain accountable, first and foremost, to their Lutheran church or school association. That relationship ensures that our schools remain faithful to their Christ-centered missions.Yet, by voluntarily entering into Indiana's School Choice program, Lutheran schools gain additional lenses with which to examine their academic performance, financial integrity, and school effectiveness. That can be positive.It's good to see our Lutheran schools examining their curricula, instructional resources, and teaching methods in collaboration with one another to determine best practices in our classrooms. Those internal conversations strengthen an approach to education that has eternal impact.Did you know that our schools must meet higher expectations than the public schools? It is true. Public schools can receive an F grade from the state for five consecutive years before they face penalties. In contrast, a non-public school participating in School Choice will be penalized after only 2 years with a D or F grade. While the inequity is quite apparent, the more stringent standard is not a problem for our Lutheran schools. Our schools are meeting the needs of the kids entrusted to our care.School Choice also requires that our schools meet high standards of financial integrity and accountability. Our schools self-police their financial practices to demonstrate good-faith, maintain operational excellence, and appropriately use the funds that come from Indiana Choice Scholarships. Lutheran schools are faithful stewards of those resources.Opponents of Indiana's School Choice legislation are aggressively working to end Choice Scholarships. It's disappointing that so much effort and money is going into this fight. Our Lutheran schools are meeting expectations, delivering high-quality education, and benefiting both kids and communities.This fall, as that political battle heats up, I invite you to join me in speaking up for School Choice. Together, let's make the public debate an opportunity to introduce more people to the outstanding work being done by our Lutheran schools.