By Dr. Mark Meyers
Principals of our Catholic schools have been working closely with the Catholic Schools Office this summer to assist parents with questions on vouchers. Parents with children considering Catholic schools are assigned vouchers and awards based on income, grade level and place of residence.
• A kindergarten child entering a Catholic school this fall requires a special tuition award in 2011-2012 in order to qualify for a voucher in grade 1 and beyond. The Catholic Schools Office will administer these awards and work with each school to identify the children, collect the applications, and distribute the funds to be applied toward kindergarten tuition.
• A child entering a Catholic first-grade class this fall after completing a year of kindergarten in a public school last year requires a special tuition award as well to qualify for a voucher in grade 2 and beyond.
• A child entering a Catholic school in grade 2 through 12 after completing last year in a public school qualifies for a voucher.
• All parents with children attending religious education classes enrolled in public schools are encouraged to contact the parish
Catholic school principal. Administrators can calculate the cost of tuition for children who qualify for a voucher.
Families must meet income requirements (see chart below) in order to be eligible for tuition vouchers.
Vouchers for high school students are not capped by law and in many cases, come close to covering the full cost of tuition and fees. Vouchers cover the majority of the cost of tuition and fees in most cases in grades 1-12. All children with vouchers are eligible each successive school year as long as parents meet income requirements. The chart below shows income levels required to qualify for a voucher.
School choice offers opportunities for parents, Catholic schools
The 2011 Indiana General Assembly passed school choice legislation to provide significant funding for parents in what has been called “the country’s largest state school voucher program.” Voucher funds and scholarship awards are available to families who choose to enroll children in Catholic schools. Any child who has been attending a public school in grades 1-11 for a full year could qualify for a voucher equal to up to nearly 100 percent of Catholic school tuition and fees.
A child who enters a Catholic kindergarten this fall could qualify for over $36,000 in tuition assistance awarded in grades 1-8. High school students could qualify for over $20,000 in voucher funds that can be applied to tuition and fees. The voucher is awarded to the family and applications will be taken online. The number of vouchers allocated in the fall is limited to 7,500, so parents should apply as soon as the Department of Education publishes the application process.
The Catholic Schools Office is developing a plan to assist most children with a financial award entering Catholic school kindergartens this fall as well. If parents qualify based on family income, awards would be applied to kindergarten tuition and fees. The child would then qualify for a voucher in grade 1. However, if a Catholic family enrolls a child in a public school kindergarten this fall, the child cannot qualify for a voucher or an award unless the child enters the public school for one year.
Parents with children entering kindergarten should contact their Catholic school principal for further details.
In schools where vouchers are issued, there are no state restrictions on catechizing children, celebrating the sacraments, or events linked to the liturgical calendar. Principals have the authority to admit and retain children based on existing admission rules and policies.
The School Choice program and vouchers could help Catholic schools sustain strong programs for many years. Voucher awards are close to paying the total cost of tuition and fees in many cases. A child in Indiana is eligible for kindergarten awards and vouchers if the parents’ annual income falls within the limits listed in this chart.
Additional details may be obtained by contacting any Catholic school principal, or Connie Bruner, school choice specialist, at (260) 422-4611 in the Catholic Schools Office for additional details.
All school phone numbers and principals are listed at www.diocesefwsb.org.
Dr. Mark Myers is the superintendent of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Additional information will be available in upcoming issues of Today’s Catholic.
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