Some area public schools are spending taxpayer dollars to advertise their districts ... via television, newspaper and Internet ... in a trend to cull new students.
Parents can not only choose what public school to send their child to thanks to School of Choice in Indiana, but now they can also send their child to private schools with state money thanks to the voucher program.
That means public schools are competing for students. The more students that come to a district ... the more state money the district will receive. Conversely, when a district loses students, it loses money.
Toyna Miles spends about two hours in the car driving 52 miles round trip just to drop off and pick up two of her children from school.
"I listen to a lot of books on tape," says Miles.
The Miles family doesn't live in Elkhart but high school freshman Katherine and fifth grader Rebecca go to school in Elkhart's school district because there are special programs here that meet their needs.
"It has been amazing," says Tonya.
Katherine is a high abilities student and Rebecca is special needs.
"I knew we were going to have to find someplace else for her (Rebecca) to go to school to accommodate those needs," says Tonya.
Miles heard a radio commercial that triggered her to look into Elkhart schools as an option. That radio commercial and now television ads are part of a growing trend by public schools to advertise what they offer.
Why advertise? "To get the story told so to speak," says Elkhart Community Schools Superintendent Mark Mow.
His district will spend about $20,000 on advertising this year. State money to the district per student ... about $6,000.
The impetus to use public money to woo students has its critics ... especially during these times when schools are cutting teachers and programs to save money.
"Because funding in Indiana follows the student, we are not spending a lot on advertising," says Mow. "If we can hang on to the students we have or attract just two or three additional students, it is actually a break even for us."
For Toyna Miles it isn't about the money ... it is about making sure her children get the best education possible.
"I think it is a great thing. Other parents need to know there are options," she says.
Other area schools advertising for students include:
- A South Bend Community Schools Corp. spokesman told WSBT the district is working on a marketing plan.
- Middlebury Community Schools has already begun advertising, budgeting about $5,000 for newspaper ads in the South Bend Tribune and other area papers. Assistant Superintendent Jane Allen says the district gets at least 15 to 20 inquiries after the ads run.
- Penn-Harris-Madison School Corp. ran newspaper ads when the district first began allowing open enrollment, but no longer, a school spokesman told WSBT.