Years ago, students from low-income families didn’t have much of a choice when it came to education. Some were stuck in poor-performing schools and unable to move to a better district. Non-public schools were out of the question, assumed only to be available to the affluent. Indiana’s Choice Scholarships ushered in a new era—one where all families, regardless of economic status, could choose the school they wanted, not the one they were forced into by circumstances.Opponents of school choice would have us overlook those needy families. They claim that expansions to Indiana’s choice scholarship have made it an “entitlement program for the wealthy.” However, data from the Department of Education simply doesn’t support their claim. The families benefiting most from the maximum Choice Scholarships are those who have the greatest need.Almost 69 percent of students who received the Choice Scholarship came from families whose annual income qualified them for the federal free or reduced lunch program. These are the students who received the maximum voucher amount—90 percent of the local public school’s per-student cost—and they are the clear majority of students who received vouchers.
The remaining 31 percent are those who received a 50 percent scholarship. These are middle-income families whose annual income was equal to or less than 150 percent free or reduced lunch eligibility.When school-choice opponents say choice scholarship (vouchers) only benefit the elite, they are clearly ignoring the data. They also forget that the wealthy can already afford any school of their choice. Affluence gives them a freedom that low-income families did not have before choice scholarships. When Indiana voters gave low-income families the power of school choice, it leveled the playing field. It empowered all Hoosier families—regardless of wealth or ZIP code—an opportunity to choose the school that best fit their child’s needs.School choice should not just be for a privileged few. Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program gives all Hoosier families the freedom to direct the education of their children, and that’s precisely how it should be.