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Back to school: Vouchers just one more option for Indiana families

Friday, August 17, 2012 - 7:19 am

EDITOR’S NOTE: The signs for various schools are in yards around the city; the advertisements are on TV and the radio, encouraging listeners to enroll in one school or another. Choice has become a buzzword across the state when talking about education.

Whichever side of the choice debate you’re on, the evidence of Indiana’s and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett’s push for more choices is evident in the various options parents now have for their child’s education.

As students head back to school, we conclude this week’s stories featuring different families and the education choices they make, their reasons and why their schools are right for them.

Indiana’s statewide voucher program, one of only two in the country, is going into its second year, opening the door for up to 15,000 students to receive a voucher to attend a private school. In the program’s first year, the number of vouchers available was capped at 7,500, and about 4,000 students requested them.

In 2013, there will be no cap on the number of vouchers available.

About 240 private schools accept vouchers, with about 35 of those schools being in or near Allen County.

One of those schools is Concordia Lutheran High School, 1601 St. Joe River Drive.

Sophomore Lucas Beal said starting his freshman year at Concordia was an easy transition from attending New Haven Middle School.

Beal attends Concordia with the help of a voucher.

Laura Beal, Lucas’s mother, said she hadn’t heard about the voucher program when she thought about pulling Lucas from East Allen County Schools. But a family member read about the voucher program in the news and called her about it.

“Everything just fell right into place,” she said.

She said she was unhappy with the direction EACS was going and wanted a Christ-centered education for both her sons. She pulled her younger son Jason out of New Haven Middle School after one semester. He now attends Holy Cross Lutheran School.

Laura said the school culture at Concordia is different than at New Haven, with higher standards and expectations at the Lutheran high school for student behavior.

Lucas agrees, and said student attitudes are better.

“The respect Concordia students have for teachers was a huge eye-opener,” he said. “There’s a Christ-centered environment here. It’s an all-around nice group of people.”

Even though the voucher only covers some tuition, Laura said the expense is worth it.

“We took on the financial burden to ensure the starting block of life is a solid one,” she said. “It’s just been a pure delight. It’s a privilege to be here.”

Lucas loves that he also has the opportunity to be a part of Concordia’s Junior ROTC program, as both of his parents were members of the military.

Laura said the school family is a welcoming one and she sees relationships that will continue after her sons graduate.

Lucas also said making friends was easy, especially with his involvement in ROTC and football.

“It’s a great school all around,” he said. “I really like it here.”