June 29, 2011 // Local

Diocesan voucher plan — ambitious, realistic, reasonable

The Catholic Schools Office has had excellent cooperation from principals, staff, business managers, school board members and pastors this summer as it works to share important information with parents regarding the new Indiana School Choice legislation related to vouchers and special tuition awards. This very important initiative provides vast opportunities for schools, as well as some immediate challenges. The Catholic Schools Office has a plan to implement the voucher program that will assist all Catholic families of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. Its goals are ambitious, yet realistic and reasonable. Procedures and practices have been put in place to ensure outreach to children, while preserving the Catholic school mission and strong Catholic identity.

• All incoming students transferring to Catholic schools will provide assessment data or complete an admissions test. This will allow teachers and the principal to understand the individual needs of the children who enter the schools.

• The target is to admit 25 students in each building or about 1,000 new children in grades K-12 this summer. If this goal is reached, the diocese would receive just fewer than 14 percent of the total number of vouchers awarded by the state in 2011. If each state voucher awarded to parents with a child attending Catholic schools contributes an average of $3,000 to the school general fund, a new revenue stream within the diocese would be over $3,000,000 for each year the children with vouchers attend Catholic schools. Twenty-five new students enrolled throughout any K-8 building would not likely require additional staffing; therefore, empty seats could be filled while serving children effectively.

• The kindergarten special awards will enable children to qualify for a voucher as first graders and beyond. The revenue generated from the eligible kindergarten children enrolled in 2011 will contribute greatly to financial stability of Catholic schools for over a decade.

• There is a significant amount of information to be shared with parents in a very short period of time.

• Parents who qualify may not have a clear understanding regarding eligibility. The income limits to qualify for a voucher and a special tuition award are based on adjusted gross income from federal and state tax returns.

• The process for applying has not been published by the Indiana Department of Education at this time. All parents applying for vouchers will require assistance from school principals to complete the verification process and application online.

• Families with English as a New Language, (ENL) will require additional assistance from the schools related to communication.

Please assist your school and principal to help enroll children who qualify for vouchers. Please pray for the principals, teachers, staff and school communities as parents are invited to share the Catholic school advantage with significant numbers of children during the next few months.

Saint Joseph’s to hold voucher meeting
SOUTH BEND — Saint Joseph’s High School will be holding an informational meeting on Choice Scholarships on Thursday, July 7, at 7 p.m. in the Little Theater.

Holy Cross School to host voucher open house
SOUTH BEND — Holy Cross School will be hosting two informational nights for parents and guardians to learn more about the new Indiana School Choice Voucher program.

The sessions will be offered on Thursday, July 7, or Tuesday, July 12, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the school located at 1020 Wilber St.

Contact the school office at (574) 234-3422.

Local Catholic educators invited to school choice conference
NOTRE DAME — Public funding issues for Catholic schools, especially in light of Indiana’s new school choice law on vouchers and tax credits, will be explained at a University of Notre Dame conference to which local principals and teachers are invited free of charge.
Notre Dame Law School professor Nicole Stelle Garnett will speak on “Sustaining Catholic Schools: The Public Funding Question” at the Remick Leadership Conference on Friday, July 8.

The conference, which will also feature the innovative research of the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on campus. The Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program, preparing the next generation of Catholic school principals, is part of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

Besides Garnett’s keynote address at 11:15 a.m., teachers and principals working on their certification and graduate degree will present their research projects dealing with pressing issues in the future of Catholic K-12 education. It’s also an opportunity to network with local and national leaders in Catholic schools while borrowing a few ideas to implement in one’s own local classroom.

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