FWCS Says No Correlation between ISTEP Scores and Vouchers

By Rachel Martin

July 23, 2012 Updated Jul 23, 2012 at 11:02 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – According to an article published Monday by our partners in news, the Journal Gazette, public schools across the state scored higher on ISTEP+ this year than private schools that participate in the state's voucher program. But are vouchers really to blame?

Administrators with Fort Wayne Community Schools (FWCS) admit their district lost students to the voucher program, but as far as ISTEP+ scores, they say there’s no correlation.

Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson says the district's ISTEP+ scores have been rising for the past three years, before the voucher program was implemented in 2011. In fact, she says the district achieved its highest score this year with 67 percent of students passing both the math and English sections of the exam.

FWCS administrators say enrollment fell last school year, but they’re not sure how many students they lost because the state does not provide that information. They predict approximately 400 students left FWCS for the 2010-2011 school year because around 400 new students appeared to be attending private schools within the district's boundaries.

“That 400 students translates to about $2.4 million, and as we lose those students we don't really know it until school starts. So it's unlikely that we'll cut any teachers or any expenditures as a result of students leaving us,” said Kathy Friend, FWCS Chief Financial Officer.

In general, the state grants public schools more funding than private schools. Through the voucher program, private schools can receive up to $4,500 in funding per new student, based on a family’s income.

“It really does hurt us,” she said. “In the coming year I imagine that we will see even more vouchers used because they’ve been heavily promoted. We suspect that will impact our enrollment which will impact our funding.”

Friend says despite vouchers, the district is proving to families they should keep their students in FWCS. She says they're emphasizing parent involvement at the schools, providing better training and support for teachers, and offer full-day kindergarten and pre-school programs. Friend says these efforts will help the district continue to achieve higher scores.

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