Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous questions about the lottery process requirement associated with the Choice Scholarship Program. Based on conversations with our School Choice partners and the DOE, we are providing the following guidance. It is our feeling that this area could face significant scrutiny as the program moves forward. Hence it is important that we all have a common understanding of the interpretation of this aspect of the law.
As you know the statute from HEA 1003 says “If the number of applicants for enrollment in an eligible school under a choice scholarship exceeds the number of choice scholarships available to the eligible school, the eligible school must draw at random in a public meeting the applications of applicants who are entitled to a choice scholarship from among the applicants who meet the requirements for admission to the eligible school.” DOE rules did not specifically address the lottery requirement but the department initially did provide some guidance and will provide additional guidance in the future based on the most recent insights from DOE legal counsel.
Admissions vs Voucher (and lottery if needed)
- Whereas coalition partners lobbied hard to maintain the school’s admission discretion, it important to note the admission process and the voucher or lottery process are two distinct processes. Students must meet the school’s admission process/criteria BEFORE being considered for a voucher. If a student meets the admission criteria and would be enrolled contingent upon their ability to pay, then they can be considered a potential voucher recipient. As the law states if there are more potential voucher recipients then available voucher spaces for a particular class (e.g. 2nd grade, 10th grade) then a random, public draw must occur. Current thinking is that segmenting the voucher process to coincide with a school admission process would not meet the intent of the law.
- Please note if you have sufficient space (or can make sufficient space) for any potential voucher recipient that meets your admission’s requirement then a lottery would not be necessary.
- Admitting voucher students on a first come – first serve basis does not meet the requirement for a lottery if there is insufficient space for any potential voucher student that meets admission requirements.
- It is very important that schools set a lottery date (as soon as possible this year). Schools should not submit student applications until after the lottery date. The DOE expects that when a student application is submitted that the school intends to enroll them and that a lottery was either not necessary because of sufficient space OR the lottery has been conducted and the student was selected.
- As said previously stated, much effort was put into protecting admissions policies but in the spirit of law (enabling families to have quality educational options) we encourage you to open your doors as widely as possible. Many students need to be in our schools. We have a gift to share…let’s share with as many as we possibly can!
On a related note, we hope to track the number of voucher students enrolled relative to school/class capacity. We will be asking that you voluntarily share those numbers with us. We will be in touch in late August in that regard.
Now that the law has been passed and the program “rolled out”, its success depends on you, the local schools. How the program is implemented (according to the intent of the law) and the achievements of voucher students to a great part falls to all of you! Thanks for sharing in this awesome responsibility! Let’s continue to work together for the betterment of all Hoosier families!!!
If you have questions about the guidance above or future plans, don’t hesitate to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org)