.- Catholic schools in southern Indiana are set to welcome low-income students who are now able to attend non-public schools thanks to the state's recently approved voucher program.
So far, 137 vouchers have been guaranteed for students transferring to the Catholic Diocese of Evansville system, which includes 28 schools throughout southwestern Indiana.
“The Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Evansville have a proud tradition of contributing to the evangelizing mission of the Church that is distinguished by excellence and committed to educate the whole child,” diocesan superintendent Daryl C. Hagan wrote in the Message Online.
“Our schools are steeped in a Catholic worldview with administrators, faculty and staff who are sustained by the Gospel and know that we are all shaped by communion and community,” he added.
The diocese's theme for the new school year in light of the new voucher program is “All Are Welcome.”
The program allows public school students from low-income families to transfer to non-public schools at taxpayer expense beginning this academic year, reported the Evansville Courier Press.
Although the voucher program is facing a legal challenge from the Indiana State Teachers Association and other opponents, advocates say it serves to expand choices for families who otherwise could not afford non-public schools.
Depending on a family's income, a student wanting to switch from public to private school could receive tuition assistance at either 90 percent or 50 percent. The voucher program has accepted about 2,000 applications statewide and an unknown number are still pending.
“Certainly it should help us to increase enrollment. It gives students more of an opportunity to have a faith-based, high academic standards education,” Ron Pittman, principal of the local St. Wendel School told the Evansville paper.
“It's a historic and exciting time for all of us in Catholic education,” superintendent Hagan said, adding that there is still time for local families to apply for a voucher.
“We ask you to join us in daily prayer for our priests, deacons, principals, religious, teachers, support staff, students, families and parishioners as we begin this new year with a welcoming spirit and genuine desire to strengthen the Catholic Church of Southwestern Indiana through Catholic education.”