INPEA Position Statement School Choice
School choice programs must respect the integrity and identity of non-public schools. Participation in such programs should not result in a sacrifice of schools’ educational mission, philosophy, creed, or governance.
The Indiana Non-Public Education Association (INPEA) supports the natural and constitutional right of parents to choose the school that they believe is best suited to meet the needs of their children. Since its founding, Indiana’s education system has included religious, independent, home, and other privately funded schools as well as public schools. This broad range of school types and curriculum approaches serves the public interest by fostering innovation in education and accommodating the widely varying needs of Hoosier children and families.
In 1925, the United States Supreme Court, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, affirmed as a fundamental principle of liberty that the child is not the “mere creature of the state.” This landmark decision excluded any general power of the state to force children to attend only public schools, consequently upholding the natural right of parents to choose the means of educating their children. In doing so, the Court soundly rejected the public school prejudice of the times and affirmed that non-public schools also serve the common good. Furthermore, in 2013 the Indiana Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Choice Scholarship Program does not violate the Indiana Constitution. Today, non-public schools continue to provide a quality education that is responsive to the rights of parents as the primary educators of their children.
One in four of Indiana’s elementary and secondary schools are privately funded; ten percent of all K-12 students attend them. Strong statements of mission and purpose define these non-public schools. These schools encompass the values and needs of the families they serve and they are accountable directly to their families and sponsoring communities. They are religious and secular, large and small, urban and rural. They serve diverse economic populations and are multi-ethnic and multi-cultural.
Most parents who currently choose non-public schools for their children exercise their constitutional right at significant cost and personal sacrifice; they bear a dual burden of paying school tuition while also contributing their share of taxes to support government-funded schools. The education of children in Indiana’s non-public schools provides substantial annual tax savings to the people of this state.
INPEA affirms all parents’ ability to choose a school that best fits their child’s needs. Attainment of full and equitable parental choice in education as well as the protection of each school’s mission and integrity is one of our primary public policy objectives. We advocate the enactment of legislation and policies which will maximize the quality of educational opportunities for all of Indiana’s children – particularly the children of the financially disadvantaged – by ensuring that all parents have access to the financial capability to exercise the right to choose the school they believe is best for their children.
To this end, we believe that:
- Any legislation and policy to improve Indiana’s schools must include a commitment to provide all parents true, full and equitable educational choice.
- True choice exists when all parents have strong, quality options in more than one system.
- Educational choice programs must respect the integrity and identity of non-public schools. Participation in such programs should not result in a sacrifice of their educational mission, philosophy, creed, or governance.
- Non-public schools serve the public good. Therefore, as the Indiana Supreme Court has held, it is legitimate to use public funds in support of children and families’ choice of non-public schools.
INPEA provides a voice for the thousands of families who depend on school choice programs to secure the best possible education for their children. It is imperative that we all continue to actively support the rights of parents to educate their children in the schools of their choice, while protecting the rights of non-public schools to fulfill their unique missions.
INPEA Board of Directors
November 14, 2000
Revised: June 10, 2010
Revision Approved November 16, 2010
September 1, 2016, revised
Revision approved by Communication Committee: January 27, 2017
Revision approved by INPEA Board of Directors: February 13, 2017