More than 5,000 Indiana students have signed up to use taxpayer money to go to private schools through the state's voucher program.
The program is in its second year and may be gaining momentum. Last year at this time, about 3,900 students had signed up.
The rooms and hallways are quiet at North Liberty Christian School now that it is summertime. But administrator Adriane Baker is still hard at work.
"I think North Liberty Christian School is a wonderful school," said Baker. "We have always said if we can get you into our doors, we feel like you would be sold to it."
North Liberty Christian School is now accepting vouchers. They are one of 270 schools in the state signed up for the program. That means parents can send their child to a participating private school, like North Liberty Christian School, using state funds.
"A true choice," said Baker. "They can have the choice to send their kids where they want to."
The kindergarten through 6th grade school currently has about 25 students. Since the school started accepting vouchers, 6 new families have already contacted Baker interested in applying -- 3 have already been accepted.
"I don't know if those families would have come to this school had they not had that opportunity," said Baker.
Those families are just a handful of thousands across the state who are choosing a private school education over the public school option. This has caused problems for the South Bend School Corporation because for every student who leaves, the district loses more than $6,000.
Last year, more than 600 students left the South Bend schools. Superintendent Carole Schmidt says about 300 of those were because of the voucher program. The district took a loss of nearly $2 million.
"If we lose 617 kids again this year, we are looking at close to $5 million," said Carole Schmidt. "That is a problem for us."
Schmidt says it does make planning tough. The district will staff and budget based on the number of students they had at the end of the school year in May, and it will staff "tightly" according to Schmidt. That could mean layoffs. Schmidt says they won't know until at least the end of the week how many layoffs. Pink slips, or RIF notices, have to be out by July 1st.
The school district will roll out a marketing plan next month to combat that.
But for Baker, it isn't a competition. "It is a preference: Do you want a private, religious education or don't you?" said Baker.
And that is what Schmidt said they found as they were doing exit surveys with parents. Many parents who left the district with vouchers chose a private school because they wanted a Christian education.
The South Bend School district's marketing plan will focus on the things it can offer. That plan will be unveiled on television and other mediums in July.