White Paper: A Survey of Indiana’s K-12 Education: Changing Patterns

March 31, 2022

by Maryann O. Keating, Ph.D.

Hoosiers hold opinions about K-12 education: where it should take place, who should pay, and how to determine its quality. The assumption that the K-12 student next door is attending the traditional public school down the street or the religiously affiliated one around the corner is no longer valid. The changes to Indiana K-12 education during the past 10 years have been significant, and, for those not directly engaged in K-12, it is difficult to conceive of the present K-12 pattern. This survey of Indiana policy options, enrollment, and academic performance outlines the current topography of Indiana K-12 education.

Indiana  Options for K-12  Education 

Around the country, public and private K-12 choices are increasing and each state labels, finances, and regulates these options differently. EdChoice, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, publishes a comprehensive guide to school choice programs for every U.S. state (The ABCs of School Choice, 2022).  Our goal is to focus on which educational options are used in Indiana and how these uses are affecting Indiana K-12 education.  

The appointed Secretary of Education acts as CEO of the Indiana Dept. of Education (IDOE) and is one of eleven members on Indiana’s State Board of Education.  Public educational policy and funding, however, originates in the General Assembly.  We consider first types of institutions and then Indiana policy support.    

Public District Schools.  This refers to traditional public schools, operated and financed by tax revenue for students living in a specified geographic neighborhood, sometimes referred to as the catchment area.  However, school districts may also operate magnet schools with specialized curriculums and programs not available in neighborhood schools.  

Inter-Intra District Open Enrollment Public Schools. Intra-district choice allows families to enroll in any public school within their district.  Inter-district choice allows families to send their children to out-of-district traditional public schools.  Public schools, however, generally give enrollment preference to those living within assigned district lines.   

Charter Schools.  These are independently run schools but funded with tax revenue.  They are exempt from many rules and regulations of district schools but accept public accountability.  In most states, if a charter school receives more applications than places available, they accept students through a lottery process.  

Eleven charter schools opened in 2002, the first year for charter schools in Indiana.  For the 2020-2021 school year, the Indiana Department of Education lists 112 charter schools.

Each charter school must be sponsored by a nonprofit organization.  Like traditional public schools, charters are free to enter into contracts for educational services provided by profit-seeking firms.  They may also receive private donations.  Virtual charter schools are expected to meet the same state requirements as on-site charter schools.

Charter schools are free to tailor programs to address the needs of a particular community such as disadvantaged or at-risk students. They may have strict admission, attendance, and parent expectation requirements that discourage certain students from applying.  In some cases, families assume responsibility for amenities, such as transportation.  A charter school may have less-than-optimal facilities and resources than district schools. However, like Success Academy in South Bend, a charter can legally lease or buy unused public district school space (Lanich). 

K-12 charter schools vary significantly in defining their mission and curriculum.  Consider, for example, two existing secondary charter programs.  Herron High School, sponsored by Indianapolis’ mayor, provides a classical liberal arts education for students in grades 9 through 12. On the other hand, Purdue Polytechnic High School (PPHS) offers STEM-focused experiences, including industry internships and technical certifications.  PPHS has locations in Englewood, Indianapolis, and South Bend.  Graduates, meeting certain standards, are offered admission to Purdue University, but the PPHS charter, with its board of directors, is a separate entity from Purdue University.  

Educational choice no longer refers just to K-12 public school options but to a diverse set of learning opportunities for those roughly between the ages of 5 to 19.  Here, a distinction is sometimes made between virtual online charter educational programs tailored to an individual and, on the other hand, charter cyber schools with a set curriculum.  For example, Indiana Connections Academy would be considered a charter cyber school for grades K-12, accredited by Cognia. Connections Academy is a non-profit division of Pearson Education, Inc., a large producer and global distributor of educational materials.    

At this point, it is impossible to predict either growth in private demand or state and local policy in Indiana regarding charter schools. Representing them is the Indiana Charter School Board (ICSB).  

Private Schools.  These may be either not-for-profit or profit-seeking institutions.  Private schools are required by the state to maintain accurate daily records to verify enrollment and attendance for each child. However, it is the responsibility of public K-12 districts to locate, identify, and evaluate all students with disabilities, residing within its boundaries, including those attending nonpublic facilities or being homeschooled. 

Indiana offers two voluntary forms of state approval for nonpublic schools, namely nonpublic state accreditation and recognition status. Both types require their personnel to be “properly licensed.”  The standards for nonpublic state accreditation are the same as those required for public schools. Nonpublic state-accredited schools agree to administer ILEARN and ISTEP+ exams and make these results available to the Department of Education.  Indiana Learning Evaluation Assessment Readiness Network (ILEARN) measures student achievement and growth in high school biology, English/Language Arts (grades 3 through 8), Mathematics (grades 3 through 8), Science (grades 4 and 6), and Social Studies (grade 5). Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+) is an assessment for high school students that measures student achievement in Mathematics and English/Language Arts, and it serves as a graduation qualifying examination.  

A recognized nonpublic school must specify its mission and comply with governance and curriculum requirements.  Recognized nonpublic schools can request using alternate tests in place of ILEARN and ISTEP.  Recognized nonpublic schools show the highest growth rate of K-12 institutions in Indiana by school type.   

At this time, religiously affiliated nonprofit schools continue to enroll the highest percentage of K-12 students in Indiana’s  nonpublic schools. Networks of Catholic, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Baptist, Mennonite, etc. schools have a long history in Indiana.  Most of these affiliated schools sponsored and subsidized by a particular denomination were established before Indiana set aside K-12 funds for attendance at private schools.  Like many Catholic diocesan schools, they may be state accredited or accredited elsewhere and state-recognized.  A significant change is that the percentage of independent nondenominational Christian schools compared to total denominational schools more than doubled between 1989 and 2011 (Catt).  

Some independent private schools, such as La Lumiere and Culver academies, do not necessarily require Indiana state recognition but any private independent that admits students with state-funded scholarships must be state-recognized.  The Indiana State Board of Education may recognize a nonpublic school in Indiana if the school holds accreditation with one or more of the following entities:

There were 154 Amish schools in Indiana according to a recent U.S. Department of Education survey. By 2017-2018, there were over 100 Amish schools alone in Northwestern Indiana, each with a 3- person school board.  These schools, none of which extends beyond 8th grade, have not sought state recognition. Some, however, do participate in a network of Amish schools (Catt).     

The Indiana Non-Public Education Association serves as an advocate, promotes engagement, and strives for the advancement of non-public schools. 


The Indiana Department of Education views home schools as nonpublic, non-accredited facilities. Homeschool educators can, but are not required to, register by submitting their grade level enrollment to the Department. Home educators are required by law to teach a minimum of 180 days per calendar year.

Several states, not including Indiana, require notification if children are being homeschooled and student progress reports.  A few states also require curriculum and teacher qualification approval.   

Financing Indiana’s  K-12 Options with Tax Revenue

Under Indiana law, K-12 Tuition Support is the dollar amount appropriated by the State Legislature for a given fiscal year. Included in this appropriation is a formula for funding all public and charter schools, the Mitch Daniels Early Graduation Scholarship program, and Choice Scholarships. 

The Mitch Daniels Early Graduation Scholarship is a one-time $4,000 scholarship for students who graduate from a publicly supported high school at least one year early. Choice Scholarships are a voucher-type program unique to Indiana for students attending nonpublic schools.  

Funding Public Schools

For the U.S. as a whole (2015-2016), 8.1% of tax-funded K-12 was paid by the Federal government, 47.4% was paid by the states, and 44.5% was paid by local government. Local funding is generally raised through property taxes. State funding is derived from sales revenue and, in most states, income taxes. 

To equalize opportunity between districts and cap property taxes,  Indiana in 2009 substituted the local contribution (called “Tuition Support Levy”) with state funding. At that time, additional funding for lower-socioeconomic districts was broken out from basic funding and placed into a separate category, referred to as the Complexity Grant.  It was expected that local funds for public education would be reserved for transportation, construction, and debt service. Localities, however, did retain the option of passing additional property tax levies to fund district schools. 

Indiana, like other states, determines a foundational amount per full-time equivalent student for providing K-12 services. Beginning in the fiscal year 2020, school corporations, including charter schools, receive the full foundation amount for each non-virtual student and 85% of the foundation amount for each virtual student. Average Daily Membership (ADM) is a count of students enrolled and expected to be in attendance for kindergarten through grade 12 in an Indiana public school district or charter school corporation on a particular day.  Although the State Tuition Support formula was based for many years on a foundation amount for every student, the socio-economic Complexity Index is now incorporated into a calculation referred to as the Basic Grant.

Indiana’s Complexity Index, now a component of the Basic Grant, provides additional state funding to K-12 corporations depending on measures of the socio-economic characteristics of families in a given schools corporation. The Complexity Index is calculated on the percentage of students who qualified for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The number of students receiving foster care services is also a factor.  In addition, the Complexity Grant considers the percentage change in complexity factors from one year to the next as well as the percentage of English Language Learner students. Table 1 lists the per student Basic Grant awarded to public K-12 corporations based on complexity. 

Table 1: Basic Grant per Student by Complexity (Fiscal Year 2020)

Indiana K-12 Corporations Considered:Number of Corporations:Basic Grant per Full-Time Equivalent Student:
High Complexity94$6,776
Mid Complexity193$6,159
Low Complexity81$5,782


Source:  Indiana Department of Education

Although the General Assembly appropriates funds for the ensuing two fiscal years, the Indiana Tuition Support formula is updated annually. The Basic Grant amounts listed in Table 1 do not include additional funds allocated for Honors Diploma Grants, Career and Technical Education Grants, and Special Education Grants.  

The Basic Grant amounts in Table 1 includes neither any locally raised funding nor the $3 billion in federal coronavirus relief expected over the next three years. Applications for coronavirus relief payments by a particular district must be reviewed by Indiana’s Department of Education and meet federal guidelines. Public information on coronavirus relief payments is not easily available (MCCOY).

Nationally, Indiana ranks below average on most metrics related to total education funding (27th in funding per student, 27th in funding per resident, and 21st in funding per $1,000 in personal income). In addition, Indiana does not compare favorably to its five neighboring states (Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin) in terms of per-student funding or teacher salaries (Toutkoushian). 

However, Indiana is one of the most equitable states in education funding by school district (Ferguson). It also has the lowest income tax rate compared with bordering states, clearly a benefit to parents and taxpayers in general.  In addition, Indiana offers several tax credits and deductions that are favorable both to public and private education. Public and private Indiana colleges and universities benefit from donations resulting from the College Tax Credit, whereby couples filing-jointly receive a $200 tax credit for a $400 college/university donation. In addition, the Public School Educator Expense Credit allows a dollar-for-dollar credit of $100 for non-reimbursed expenses that a public school educator incurs.     

 Inter-District Settlements 

Financial transfers are not an issue when students attend a district school other than the one based on their place of residence (Intra-District Transfers).  

Funding allocations become an issue when students live outside the district but are attending school in another district. Cash transfers between districts may be charged for Inter-District students when the parent(s) do not pay full tuition for enrollment in an out-of-distict school corporation.

Child protective agencies can place a child in an out-of-district school; these are considered Transfer Out students for a particular year. Other Transfer Out students may be attending a school corporation outside of their legal settlement based on an agreement between the corporation of legal residence and the servicing corporation.  In addition, a student can qualify for a “better accommodation” under Indiana Code.  Transfers to charter schools are not considered Transfer Outs.  

Funding Charter Schools.  

State Tuition Support per Indiana Code defines “School Corporation” to encompass both charter schools and any local public school corporation/district established under Indiana law.

 Beginning in the fiscal year 2020, all school corporations, including charter schools, receive the full Basic Grant for each on-site student and 85 percent of the amount for each virtual student.

Note that charter high schools for adults, such as Excel Centers, sponsored by Goodwill Industries, are not included in the K-12 Indiana state tuition support formula. However, they can qualify for support through Indiana’s Adult Learners fund (IDOE. Digest…).

Subsidizing Private Schools. 

 Across the U.S., 29 states have K-12 voucher-type programs.  Vouchers permit parents to choose a private school for their K-12 students, using public funding to pay for tuition.  Funds typically expended by the state to the relevant school district are reallocated to pay partial or full tuition at both religious and non-religious schools.   

Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program is a voucher-type program but limited to students from families whose income does not exceed 300% of federal eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches. Eligibility gives preference to students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP), to those who otherwise would be attending an underperforming public school, and requires, with several exceptions, prior public school attendance.   

Under the most recent state guidelines, a family of four can make up to $147,075 and still be eligible for an Indiana Choice Scholarship.  As of July 1, 2021, all eligible students receive a full grant, equal to 90% of the state’s basic grant for a child attending a local public school.  

In 2013, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in Meredith v. Pence that the Choice Scholarship Program does not violate the state constitution and that constitutional prohibitions against government funding of religious entities do not apply to institutions providing primary and secondary education.   

In 2021, 324 schools participated in the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program. Most of these schools are affiliated with Catholic, Lutheran, and other Christian denominations. However, the list also includes two Hebrew academies, an Islamic school, and several nonsectarian schools. It also includes Montessori schools and an increasing number of independent private schools.

A full list of schools participating in the Indiana Choice Program and scholarship amounts earned by each institution is available on the website of the Indiana Department of Education. An eligible school is afforded the right to a fair hearing before any action to terminate its eligibility in the Choice Scholarship Program.

Not to be confused with Choice Scholarships, Indiana’s School Scholarship Tax Credit Program allows individuals and corporations to claim a 50% tax credit for contributions to approved scholarship-granting organizations, referred to as SGOs. These funds, donated to nonpublic schools, assist with tuition for qualifying students. Like the Choice Scholarship Program, eligibility is limited to students from families whose incomes do not exceed 300% of federal eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches.  

In 2019-20, six scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs) determined scholarship amounts and awarded 9,494 scholarships.  The average value of these scholarships was $2,350 approximately 20% of public school per-student total spending.  

Note that the School Scholarship Tax Credit Program represents voluntary private donations.  However, these Tax Credits are capped at $17.5 million for 2021-2022 and $18.5 million for  2022-2023.   

The Education Scholarship Account Program is yet another separate program from the Choice and Scholarship Tax Credit programs.  This new option launched in Fall 2020, like the other two programs, is limited to students from families meeting the 300 Percent of FRL income level. Specifically, the Account Program targets the 13 % of Indiana Students with special needs.  

Student eligibility is determined by having an individual education program (IEP) developed by a public or private school.  Once enrolled, students remain eligible for the Account Program until they graduate or turn 22 years old.  

For those eligible, a portion of their assigned state funding will be made available in an education saving account (ESA) to be used for private school tuition or other educational expenses, including special needs services and therapies, individual classes, testing fees, and transportation.  

Accounts range up to 90% of what a student would receive in the school district of residence plus extra funds allocated for special needs status.  The Indiana legislature appropriated $10 million for Education Scholarship Accounts for 2022-23.  

Note that all three programs, namely Choice Scholarships, the School Scholarship Tax Credit Program, and the new Education Scholarship Account Program, are based on income. Although 90% of Indiana students qualify based on income, the income gap and other eligibility requirements, although politically expedient, are somewhat divisive and distortionary. Furthermore, they limit competition and the academic benefits of school choice.   

Although Indiana is a leader in school choice, the federal government also plays a role. Originally, the U.S. Internal Revenue Code authorized State-sponsored 529 plans to assist families with future narrowly qualified post-secondary school expenses. If families wish, they can contribute post-tax dollars into 529 accounts.  Earnings accumulate tax-free, and distributions are untaxed. A significant change in 529 plans took place in 2017. They now permit withdrawals of up to $10,000 annually for private K-12 tuition expenses. Additionally, Indiana taxpayers get a state income tax credit (capped at $1000 for joint fillers) equal to 20 % of their contribution to Indiana’s College Choice 529.

Subsidizing Homeschooling 

For homeschooling families, not enrolled in a public charter program, an Indiana tax deduction of $1000 per qualified dependent child is available for private and homeschool expenses regardless of income. 

In Indiana, homeschooler participation in extracurricular activities is at the discretion of the public school. The only exception is high school athletics, where participation also falls under the purview of the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA); in this case, homeschool students must be enrolled in (and earn passing grades from) at least three public school classes per day plus two additional school-approved classes (distance education, community college, etc.).

How Hoosiers  Are Exercising  their K-12 Options

A Parent and Family Involvement study of the National Household Education Surveys (NHES) program tried to identify factors that parents of K–12 students rate as “very important” when choosing a school. In the 2018–19 school year, 36 percent of student parents surveyed indicated that they had considered multiple schools for their child. Among these, 79 percent indicated that the quality of teachers, principals, or other school staff was very important. Other factors indicated as being very important include safety (including student discipline) (71 percent) and curriculum focus or unique academic programs (such as language immersion and STEM focus) (59 percent).

Table 2 indicates the relative share of students attending traditional public, public charter, and accredited private K-12 schools. Realize, however, data on attendance mode (in-person or virtual) is not yet available for the years shown.  

Table 2: Indiana K-12 Percentage Enrollment by School Type 

YearTraditional Public School EnrollmentPublic Charter School EnrollmentState Accredited Non-Public  Enrollment excluding Choice Scholarship RecipientsChoice Scholarship RecipientsOtherTotal

Source: Indiana Department of Education. Choice Scholarship Program Annual Report, April 2021.

Public District Schools.

Traditional public schools continue to dominate Indiana K-12 enrollment, accounting for over 85% of all students. However, between 2016- 2021, the absolute number of Indiana public school K-12 students declined by 1.2%, not unlike a similar decline for the nation as a whole.    This decline is driven by demographics (the number of children between the ages of 5 and 17), as well as transfers to non-public schools.  

 In 2018-2019, 144,619 K-12 students transferred out of or between Indiana’s public schools.  It is noted that 44% of these out-of-district transfers chose traditional public schools, 31%, chose public charter schools and 25% chose non-public schools.  

It is significant that during the 2016-2021 period in which traditional public school enrollment in Indiana declined, special education and English language learners increased by 6.2%.

Inter-Intra District Open Enrollment Public Schools.

As expected, larger school districts experience the largest absolute number of student transfers. Districts experiencing the largest number of students transferring  from one public district to another are Indianapolis Public Schools, South Bend Community School Corporation, Fort Wayne Community Schools, Anderson Community School Corporation, Elkhart Community Schools, and Marion Community Schools.  Those experiencing large transfers to charter schools are Gary Community School Corporation, Indianapolis Public Schools, and Anderson Community School Corporation.  Districts experiencing the largest number of  transfers to private schools, are Ford Wayne Community Schools, South Bend Community School Corporation, Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation, Perry Township Schools, and Indianapolis Public Schools (Burbrink).  

To get a grasp on relative geographical variation in response to K-12 options, consider two school districts:  Carmel Clay Schools and South Bend Community School Corporation.  

Based on the 2021 Fall enrollment count there were 16,334 K-12 students reported to be residing within Carmel Clay School boundaries:

At the same time, of the 22,749 students reported to be residing within the South Bend Community School Corporation boundaries:

Charter Schools.  

Parents of over 50,000 Hoosier children have chosen to enroll their children in charter schools. This represents approximately 5% of all Indiana’s K-12 students. As a percentage of K-12 Hoosier public school students, 2.59 % are enrolled in on-site charters and less than 1% in virtual charters (IDOE. Indiana K-12 State Tuition Support…).      

The preferred option for Hoosier parents considering alternatives is to pursue enrollment at an out-of-district traditional public school, rather than a public charter or private school.  In many communities, a non-virtual charter or private school option is not easily available.   

Private Schools.  

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics for the school year 2019-2020, Indiana had 869 K-12 private schools with 115,421 students.  

As previously indicated, a listing for every private school participating in the Choice Scholarship program is available from the Indiana Department of Education.  Included are enrollment data and state funds received unless student identification is an issue given small enrollment (IDOE, Choice Scholarship Program…, Appendix C).  

About 80 percent of K-12 students in Indiana are eligible for Choice or Tax Credit Scholarships but less than 4 percent participate.  In the fiscal year 2021, Choice Scholarships represented only 2.33% of K-12 state funding.  

Enrollment in private Indiana accredited schools surged between 2011 and 2015 but declined between 2016-2021 at a rate slightly lower than public schools. 

 For the U.S. as a whole, enrollment in Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools decreased by 64% between 1960 and 2015.  The national decrease between 2010 and 2015 was 7% (nces.ed.gov Table 205.70).  Indiana’s school choice program may have modestly arrested the enrollment decline in the state’s religiously affiliated private schools. 

The largest institutional impact of school choice in Indiana is the growth in nonaffiliated private schools. Between 2011 and 2016, over 100 additional independents (not affiliated with a particular religious denomination) private schools received state recognition.   


In 2016, a study of American households indicated that 3.3% of students ages 5 through 17 in the United States were being homeschooled. In Indiana, edCHOICE presently estimates that the share of Indiana K-12 students being homeschooled is 2.6% (Engage).

Once located, families vary in the extent to which they consider children in school part-time to be homeschoolers. The National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) asks households if anyone in the household is “currently in homeschool instead of attending a public or private school for some or all classes.” About 18 percent of homeschoolers are in a brick-and-mortar school part-time. Given the growth of virtual education and cyber schools, it is not always the case that children educated at home or in multi-family pods are necessarily being instructed by parents (U.S. Department of Education, School Choice…).

In 2016, parents of homeschooled students were asked to identify the most important reason for choosing to homeschool their child. The reason reported was a concern about the school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure (34 percent). The two other reasons for homeschooling frequently cited as most important were dissatisfaction with the academic instruction at their schools (17 percent) and a desire to provide religious instruction (16 percent) (U.S. Department of Education, Parent and Family Involvement…). 


The National Assessment of Economic Progress (NAEP), referred to as the Nation’s Report Card tests students across the U.S.  It samples performance of students in 4th, 8th, and 12th grades in various subjects, and then it then provides reports for each state. Table 3 compares Indiana student performance with other states based on NAEP tests. Unfortunately, 12th-grade results are not yet available for individual states.

In 2019, Indiana 4th and 8th graders continued to score higher than U.S. overall averages in mathematics and reading, and 7th highest in 2019 among all states and the District of Columbia in 4th-grade mathematics.  

Table 3:  Indiana Scores and State Ranking in the National Assessment of Economic Progress

Subject and GradeYearScore (0-500)Points  Above National AverageIndiana’s Rank in the U.S.At or above Basic (%)At or above Proficient (%)At Advanced (%)

42019245.00+5.00 7th84.0047.0011.00

2017246.51+7.35 6th85.6048.0112.14

2009242.62+3.5218th87.1441.59  5.44


2009286.81+5.1417th77.7636.15  7.29


2017226.42+5.61  9th72.6340.6510.28

2009222.66+3.0622nd69.8033.75  7.27
82019266.00+4.0012th75.0037.00  4.00

2017272.02+6.69  6th82.3741.12  4.69

2009265.69+3.40 21st78.9132.11  2.23

Source:  U.S. Department of Education. The Nation’s Report Card, National Assessment of Educational Progress

NAEP data do not offer comparisons between public and private schools in a given state.  However, it does offer limited information for comparing performance between charter, some private schools, and traditional public schools for the nation as a whole.  In 2019, it reported that its sample of charter school students in the U.S. performed below public school students in grades 4th, 8th, and 12th in math and reading.  Catholic 4th and 8th-grade school students, as a subset of private schools, performed at a higher level in math, reading, and science than public school students in 2019.  They also scored higher than public and charter schools in civics in 2010 and 2018.  Note that these scores for private school enrollment are based on a national sample and information by state is lacking.     

End of course 2015 test results for Algebra, English, and Biology for each accredited Indiana secondary school (public and private) are available for download from the Indiana Department of Education. However, to avoid individual student identification, scores for schools with insufficient enrollment are excluded.     


The pros and cons of K-12 changes on Hoosier children are ambiguous. As always, a particular child’s wellbeing depends on agents operating in trust on his or her behalf whether parents, teachers, administrators, or policy-makers.   

Involved parents desire a safe, academically and vocationally sound education reflecting their personal values. Given the phenominal increase in school performance data, parents are equipped to seek customized non-standard experiences tailored to the needs of their specific child or, at least, educational options. Many are willing to advocate for this within institutions and through the political process.   K-12 options create incentives for involved parents to recognize the time and out-of-pocket expenses required in realizing their desired levels of academic, cultural, and character formation.  

 In terms of raising and allocating K-12 tax revenue, the Indiana General Assembly and local municipalities remain in charge.  A legitimate goal is a just distribution between students given what the public is willing to provide. The centralization of  K-12 operating expenses has standardized per-student spending, with the downside that curriculum and disciplinary standards in Indiana’s district schools may be less in line with local preferences.    

Hoosier state lawmakers are responding to interest groups’ pressure in allocating funds based on family income, students’ academic potential, and the decreasing percentage of resident taxpayers with young children. Local referendums supplement state funding, but there is no assurance that this will result in increasing the human resources needed for quality education. Meanwhile, municipalities and school corporations struggle with the costs of federal and state regulations and in funding their pension obligations.   K-12 options are a realistic means of addressing these issues.

Nonprofit and profit-seeking institutions are adapting to changes in K-12 funding.  The introduction of vouchers for which only some families qualify complicates the tuition burden and private subsidies at nonprofit private schools. All schools, private and public, will need to become more transparent about their expectations for parent support, financial and otherwise.  

Close supervision by Indiana’s Department of Education and local school boards is essential given increased tax-funded options.  Compliance, however, will consist merely in assessing full-time equivalent enrollment, instructional hours per week, the yearly calendar, and financial accounting.  Authorities are not on-site and lack classroom and subject expertise. Teachers, of proven ability who are employing best educational practices, are necessarily degraded if officials exercise excessive authority and regulation.  

Increased competition between schools is a cost-effective means of attaining a higher degree of quality in both public and private schools. Present indications suggest that Indiana is on track in increasing its  quality of primary and secondary education relative to the U.S. as a whole.     


Burbrink, Jacob. “These Indiana Schools are the Most Chosen by Parents,” FOX 59, Indianapolis, January 28, 2022, 1-17.  

Catt, Andrew DExploring Indiana’s Private Education Sector, The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, November, 2014. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED560671.pdf 

edCHOICE. ABCs of School Choice 2020. Available in pdf format at edchoice.org

edCHOICE. Engage, Spring, 2022. 

Ferguson, Colton with Abigail Spradin. Indiana K-12 Funding White Paper, Indiana School Board Association, January, 2020. Available in pdf format at isba-ind.org

Indiana Department of Education (IDOE).  Indiana K-12 State Tuition Support Annual Report, Office of School Finance, December 2020. https://www.in.gov/doe/files/indiana-k-12-state-tuition-support-annual-report-fy2020.pdf

Indiana Department of Education (IDOE). Choice Scholarship Program Annual Report: Participation and Payment Data, April, 2021. https://www.in.gov/doe/files/2020-2021-Annual-Report.pdf 

Indiana Department of Education (IDOE). Digest of Public School Finance in Indiana: 2021-2013 Biennium. https://www.in.gov/doe/files/Public-School-Digest-2021-2023-final.pdf  

McCoy, Dylan Peers. Indiana Schools Got $3B in federal funding. Why Don’t We Know How They Will Spend It? National Public Radio, posted December 5, 2021. https://www.wfyi.org/news/articles/indiana-school-districts-3-billion-dollars-pandemic-funding

Milani, Ken and Rick Klee. “Tax Talk: Indian Income Tax Return,” South Bend Tribune, March 6, 2022, 1C.

Lanich, Carley.  “Charter, District Vie for Same Space,” South Bend Tribune, March 25, 2022, A1. 

Toutkoushian, Robert K. Education Funding and Teacher Compensation in Indiana: Evaluation and Recommendations Indiana State Teachers Association, March 11, 2019. https://www.ista-in.org/uploads/Indiana-Report-on-Funding-for-K-12-Education.pdf

U.S. Department of Education. The Nation’s Report Card, National Assessment of Educational Progress, National Center for Educational Statistics https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/

U.S. Department of Education. Parent and Family Involvement, National Household Education Survey, Blog Editor Datasets, National Center for Educational Statistics, July 30, 2020. https://ies.ed.gov/blogs/nces/2020/07/30/default

U.S. Department of Education. School Choice in the United States: 2019, National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES 2019-106), Indicator 5. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/schoolchoice/ind_05.asp


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