Private Schools, Public Good
In 2009, during his confirmation hearing before Congress, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Arne Duncan said that education was “the most pressing issue facing America.” Of the 22,000 elementary age children who attend Indianapolis Public Schools, over 80 percent of them come from households that qualify for the Federal Free/Reduced School Lunch Program. Only slightly more than 50 percent pass both portions of the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress-Plus (ISTEP+). Compare these results against the approximately 9,500 children in Marion County attending a private elementary school who achieve greater than 80 percent passing rate on the ISTEP+.*
To give more children the opportunity of private education, Sagamore Institute is pleased to host the Scholarships for Education Choice (SEC) initiative. While we are also pro-public school, Sagamore Institute believes firmly in the Education Reform activities taking place within Indiana and nationally. We were asked to become a Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) in 2011 to help with the implementation of the Indiana School Scholarship Tax Credit Program. This program allows participating organizations to raise money and award scholarships for low-income families seeking alternatives to public education for their children through tuition-based schools. By offering a state tax credit to individual and corporate donors, Indiana has created a mechanism that offers nearly 1,000 children an opportunity to attend a high-performing private school at a cost of less than 0.04 percent of the current state budget allocated for Pre-K-12 public education. This is a low-cost approach for the state to facilitate choice for families who desire greater experiences for their children.
Education is the lynchpin to breaking the cycle of poverty and creating opportunity for future generations to become valuable contributors to a healthy society. As Duncan said, “preparing young people for success in life is not just a moral obligation of society” but also an “economic imperative.” Scholarships for Education Choice is excited to give families and children burdened by financial constraints opportunities to pursue an education that prepares them to become prosperous adults and engaged citizens.