Lutheran schools throughout the Indiana District and LCMS are tremendous blessings to children and families. Lutheran schools owned and operated by members of a single Lutheran church or an association of Lutheran churches makes financial sacrifices to keep open their Lutheran school and to keep the cost of tuition at a reasonable rate for families.
Almost all of the Lutheran elementary schools and all of the Lutheran high schools in the Indiana District receive Choice dollars from the state of Indiana. Those Choice dollars do not cover the entire cost of education for young adults and children; however, the dollars do benefit families who may choose one of the many Lutheran schools located around the Indiana District. Without the blessing of Choice, many would not be able to afford the tuition cost for their child, enroll their child or children, and receive the blessings of Christian education.
Even though the Indiana Scholarship (Choice) Program is a blessing, members of congregations have the privilege and responsibility of owning and operating their Lutheran school. And, congregational members must never take for granted or become complacent in their gratitude and thankfulness back to their Heavenly Father for Christian instruction. Lutheran schools benefit, value and rely on your prayers, on your donated time, and on you being good stewards of your finances as congregations are directly responsible for the operational costs of the school.
The Indiana Scholarship (Choice) Program was enacted by legislators and signed into legislation by Governor Daniels in 2011 to relieve the cost of education for parents. The law was never enacted to fully operate a Lutheran school. And it does not as we all know. The state of Indiana covers only a fraction of that educational cost; the cost to fully educate students in Lutheran schools is covered through church contributions, special gifts and development dollars.
It is always my prayer that parents will choose a Lutheran school where by their young adult or child will learn about Jesus, possibly for the first time. As Christian teachers share the message of the Gospel with those who may be hearing about Jesus for the first time and with those who have heard about Jesus often but continually need to hear it for spiritual growth and nurture, it is my hope and prayer that all students come to believe the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit and take comfort in those Biblical truths. That is what makes Lutheran schools so unique and different than other private schools of choice.
Because the Indiana Scholarship (Choice) Program can be controversial and can be criticized at times, you might enjoy learning about some of the positives that result when parents exercise their right to choose a school. May God grant parents the wisdom to choose a Lutheran school!
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports a host of indicators from demographics to performance to economic outcomes in a congressional report about education and vouchers (Cape Outlook, June 2016). Several interesting statistical findings were reported about private schools.
- Students who graduate from private schools have a tendency to take more algebra II/trigonometry (85%) compared to graduates from traditional public schools (75%); graduates of private schools are reported to have taken more calculus courses (44%) compared to (15%) of graduates from public schools.
- The Condition of Education, 2016, as cited by CAPE, reports a higher percent of students who have graduated from private schools that have taken more science classes (44%) compared to (29%) of students who graduate from a traditional public school.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) indicates that the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released results from the first-ever national assessment of student performance in technology and engineering literacy (TEL). NCES released data about 21,500 public and private school students in 840 public and private schools across the country who took TEL. NCES reports that results showed that 60% of students in private schools across the country scored at or above the proficient level on this new assessment compared to 42% of students in public schools (Cape Outlook, June 2016).
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) as shared by the Council for American Private Education (Cape Outlook, June 2016) reports on a study conducted at the University of Arkansas. Research conducted by Shakeel, Anderson & Wolf (2016) reports that voucher students on average increased their reading scores by about .27 standard deviations and their math scores by about .15 standard deviations. CAPE defines these gains in standard deviations to be equivalent to several months of additional learning for these voucher students. The full report is available at www.uaedreform.org/working-papers/.
Unfortunately, what we may hear or read about regarding vouchers, specifically the Indiana Choice Program, may not always be accurate. So often, what has become controversial grist for debate about Choice in public arenas tends to be more about the loss of revenue and how Choice dollars have become the financial engine for private schools, even Lutheran schools rather than having those healthy conversations about how Choice can and does benefit and strengthen education in general.
When Choice parents choose to enroll in one of our Lutheran schools, they receive a percentage of dollars (50% or 90%) from the state based on their financial income and based on the cost to educate determined by the public school district that family resides. Choice dollars received from the state of Indiana are greatly supplemented by the sacrificial giving of congregational members that own and operate their Lutheran school. And this is so because on congregational members love Jesus, love their Lutheran school, and are ‘mission’ people by which they view their Lutheran school as a mission outpost to their community.
The LCMS is blessed to have one of the largest school systems in the nation. Let us remain diligent in the proclamation of the Gospel as people of God!