IN THE summer of 2011 a 16-year-old girl called Dayana Vazquez-Buquer arrived at the reception desk of Roncalli High School, a nice private school in the south side of Indianapolis. Her parents were Mexican immigrants who could not afford the $8,030 tuition fees. Yet Miss Vazquez-Buquer felt Roncalli would be better for her than her current public school and said she had heard about a new school voucher scheme that would pay most of the fees. She was correct. Today she is a student at Roncalli and on track to attend university.
The voucher scheme, potentially the biggest in America, was set up a year ago as part of a big package of educational reforms led by Indiana’s governor, Mitch Daniels, and his superintendent of schools. These include teacher evaluations that take student performance into account, giving school heads more autonomy and encouraging the growth of charter schools. Jeanne Allen, president of the Centre for Education Reform, a Washington-based advocacy group, says the reforms are unique because Indiana has looked at education reform in its “totality”, rather than taking a piecemeal approach as many other states have done.
Roncalli’s tuition is currently $8,030 for the first student in a family. The Indianapolis Public Schools 2013 budget will spend $540,000,000 for 32,000 students, or $16,875/student. Madison will spend $15,128/student during the 2012-2013 school year.