On the evening of Wednesday, January 15, Jon Dize, our advancement director, and I enjoyed an evening with parents, legislators, and others interested in supporting Indiana School Choice initiatives. Sponsored by Hoosiers for Economic Growth and School Choice Indiana, the reception was an opportunity for sharing ideas and stories to better understand the impact of School Choice and the various issues with school reform in Indiana. Discussions included topics such as strong standards, various school models, choice for Indiana families, and meaningful measurements.
A memorable part of the evening for me was my conversation with Arlene, who has an 8-year-old son in the second grade at Emmaus Lutheran School in Fort Wayne. Her 5-year-old son attends a preschool program elsewhere. Arlene is a strong supporter of School Choice as it has greatly impacted her family. Here's a bit of the conversation between Arlene and yours truly, Mark. Mark: "What are the circumstances that brought about your interest in Choice Scholarships, or vouchers?" Arlene: "My husband is a small-business owner who employs one part-time employee. This past November, I started working as an on-call substitute cafeteria assistant for a local school system. My husband's business has been struggling for the past few years." Mark: "So why not enjoy the free public school education that is provided by our local school systems?" Arlene: "Since he is quiet and reserved, I feared that he would fall through the cracks of a public school system if he were presented with material that he didn't immediately understand." Mark: "How have the recent changes in the School Choice program helped you and your family?" Arlene: "Thanks to the passage of House Bill 1003 last year, which removed the SGO funding limit for kindergarten only and included siblings, we'll be eligible for the voucher program next year. Since we received scholarship assistance when our son was in the first grade, we were eligible for SGO funding this year, making us eligible for the voucher program next year. Now my son won't have to switch schools to attend public school for one year, and then switch again, to get him back into Emmaus-a school we know is working for him." Mark: "What have been some of the results of your son's attending Emmaus?" Arlene: "We just received my son's STAR Reading Test scores, which indicate that he's reading at a level greater than 84 percent of other students nationally in his grade. It goes on to state that his Instructional Reading Level is at a 3.2, which means that he's at least 80-percent proficient at reading third-grade words and books, even though he's only halfway through the second grade. We also just received his report card indicating that he's at 90 percent in English, 97 percent in math, 92 percent in reading, 94 percent in science, and 96 percent in spelling." Mark: "Sounds like you're very pleased with your child's experience at Emmaus and thankful for School Choice here in Indiana." Arlene: "If it hadn't been for scholarships, SGO Funding and the voucher program, we wouldn't have been able to afford to send our son to the school where he's is currently succeeding. Children don't come in a 'one size fits all.' They're individuals, and parents who have been with them since birth know their learning styles better than anyone else. Thank you for allowing parents the choice to enroll their children in a school parents know is best for their children, regardless of the family's financial circumstances. In the end, our children, we as parents, the State of Indiana, and society will all win when our children can achieve their highest potentials." Our Lutheran schools are very happy to serve families such as Arlene's, families looking for the best school choices for their kids. We continue to be thankful for the opportunities God has provided for families to have additional access to our schools. You can help ensure that these School Choice programs continue and become stronger by contacting your state representative and state senator. Your words mean a lot. A few phone calls and emails have tremendous impact. I urge you to let your voice be heard. Join the conversation.