Voucher programs, funded directly by states for private school tuition, are yet another form of school choice. Vouchers are now unconstitutional in Florida which was the first state to implement them. They were replaced by corporate tax credit scholarships. In spite of the state supreme court decision, vouchers for students with disabilities have not been challenged in court.
North Carolina’s vouchers are under appeal. New York’s legislature is currently battling over whether to fund forms of vouchers and tax credits. The legal basis for vouchers varies due to differences in wording in state constitutions. Florida’s constitution Bush vs Holmes clearly specified that funds must go to public schools. A similar argument is being made in North Carolina.
The Center for Evaluation in Education Policy at Indiana University reports on private school vouchers in the four states that offer them for general education students. These are new, rapidly growing programs that now may be slowing. How they differ is instructive.
In Mapping the Growth in Statewide Voucher Programs, the authors describe differences among states for income eligibility, funding source, state assessment requirements, enrollment caps, and public school transfers. Four states offer private school tuition support for students in general education.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin has a voucher program for Milwaukee and Racine which recently loosened income requirements from 175 to 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines. A separate statewide program was launched in 2013 that will be limited to one percent of students enrolled in any individual public school. Vouchers are $7,210 for elementary and $7,856 for high school students. Private schools must administer state tests.
Ohio: Vouchers are generally tied to students from low income students enrolled in public schools with a D or F grade. Since there are several types of programs, specific requirements differ. Some vouchers cover total tuition, and others cover only a portion. The source of funding may be from district or state budgets which makes the financial impact difficult to determine. Assessment results must be reported and principals must be licensed.
Indiana: Vouchers cover a portion of tuition. Students must take state assessments. There are several pathways into the program that include income eligibility, and disability. The program constitutionality was upheld in Meredith vs. Pence (2013).
Louisiana: Vouchers are limited to low income (<250% of poverty level) families. Students entering kindergarten or are enrolled in public schools with C, D, or F grades are eligible. Private schools are screened, and students can apply to five approved schools. Average amount of vouchers is $5,311. Private schools must administer state assessments. After a state supreme court decision against vouchers, the source of funding was changed to the fund allocation for health care and higher education.