Explore Nueroscience in Education with Dr. Lori Desautels

A School Voucher is About Much More than Money

In response to the state supreme court’s decision In Indiana to uphold the voucher program, I believe there are significant notions and factors left out of this reported equation affecting huge amounts of public dollars and thousands of children and families.  Greg Zoeller stated in the article that “families can now make informed decisions about using vouchers.” This is one of many of my concerns. How informed are parents in reality?  When we look at the actual poverty/low income levels across our state, reported by the Children’s Defense Fund below,  I have reservations  that many private and charter schools DO NOT have the resources and support to educate these children from low income environments. It is about much more than “money” It is about  “how” these students are affected by these environments.   One out of five of these students is experiencing chronic stress from either the emotional social and cognitive challenges  he or she may face inside impoverished environments. Parents are under the illusion that just by switching schools that these emotional and learning needs will improve, and in many private and charter schools, teachers have taken on multiple roles as coach, department head, tutor, mentor, etc. I have walked through many “parent choice schools” that simply do not have the knowledge, resources and support to assist these students who are transferring for the aforementioned reasons they switched schools in the first place.  I am also deeply concerned that if  the needs of students are not met,  or if the school of choice finds any reason that the student is not a good fit for this specific environment, the private schools may choose to remove a student at any time  unlike public schools that are required to go through a more in-depth rigorous process under public law of student removal. Many of the students and families who are taking advantage of this school voucher programs are facing stress-filled times because of the emotional academic and social needs of their students,  and for these very reasons, they are making decisions about school placement that are not embracing the totality of the needs, matched resources, support and options.


Where are the surveys, the discussions and interview forms about families in need? Where are the actual interviews so that parents and families can state their direct reasons for pulling a child out of a public school and then exploring private school options that are aligned to the needs of the student being considered? It is about so much more than money because in reality there may or may not be private and charter schools that can actually meet the requirements and needs of families desiring a different type of education. What are the effects on students when the “school choice” doesn’t work out and mid-year or late year the student is moved again affecting their self-esteem, peer relationships, status, and social and emotional lives?


In reality, my questions are: Do these private and charter schools meet the emotional and social needs that accompany low income families? Are the private schools who have waiting lists for families that will and can pay full tuition taking in families who have a voucher?


I believe once again Indiana reform movements jump on this band wagon of all or nothing when it comes to educating our students and supporting our families and communities. We simply neglect to explore the reasons for dissatisfaction with a specific school, a family’s hopes and goals for a student who is leaving public school and the measures or lack thereof of what the public schools might do differently to support the needs of a child who is troubled emotionally academically economically or socially?


Money does follow the student and 38 million dollars is a huge financial hit to our public education system that does not affect just one district but many! I feel with this massive   movement of swift change, the fall –out will create enough tension that we will need to begin to be more intentional in the initial process of matching students with schools that have the potential to meet their needs! What could be more important?


. Child Poverty in Indiana
Number of poor children (and percent poor) 342,172 (21.7%)
Number of children living in extreme poverty (and percent in extreme poverty) 154,936 (9.8%)
Number of adults and children receiving cash assistance from Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) 65,252
Maximum monthly TANF cash assistance for a family of three $288  


Children’s Defense Fund




2 Responses to “A School Voucher is About Much More than Money

  • Debbie, Thank you! Just saw your comment!!

  • Debbie Snedden
    11 years ago

    So well said. Working in a charter I think we are not looking at the bigger picture for these kids. We have to look at the whole child and go back to Maslows hierarchy ! Thank you so much for your important work!

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