11:28 PM EDT, September 6, 2012
Indiana parents have until 11:59 p.m. Friday to file for a school voucher for their child. The state voucher program aims to help lower and middle class families pay for a portion of tuition at any school they choose.
The Indiana voucher program is the subject of a lawsuit pending before the Indiana Supreme Court, but that hasn’t stopped it from growing in popularity as it enters its second year.
The hallways at Traders Point Christian Academy have been full this year because more and more families are using the state voucher program to offset the cost of the private school’s tuition.
"We're just on the borderline of being able to afford it," said Kyle Johnson, who has children attend the school. “So this just creates that extra opportunity."
Johnson began taking advantage of the voucher program after Indiana launched the program last year.
In all, more than 3,900 students received vouchers during the 2011-2012 school year, making it the largest first year voucher program in the nation. With one day left before the deadline this year, more than 8,500 students have applied for vouchers.
The increase is even bigger at Traders Point Christian Academy.
"It's about a 300 percent increase for us," said Toni Kanzler, who works in admissions for the school. "It's about triple what it was the first year."
Opponents of the voucher program argue that the state program is unconstitutional because it gives state money to mostly religious private schools, while taking students away from public schools. The Indiana Supreme Court has taken up the constitutional challenge, but a hearing has not been set.
According to last year's numbers, 69 percent of the students who opted for vouchers were from metro areas. Indianapolis Public Schools reportedly lost the most potential students (644).
But public schools haven’t simply been sitting back and waiting for the results of the legal challenge. In response, many public districts have increased promotional efforts to keep students and also improved programs and technology offerings.
Alex Damron, a spokesperson with the Department of Education says that increased competition is a benefit of the program.
"I think choice itself has encouraged some of our traditional public schools to begin to seek new ways to better serve students," Damron said.
"It's probably not for everybody," Johnson said. "But it's at least good to look into and have that option."
There are two types of vouchers available. For more information click here.