John Elcesser, executive director of the Indiana Non-Public Education Association, said it’s not surprising that Catholic schools are receiving so many of the vouchers, even though they make up fewer than half of the 415 schools in the group.
Most Catholic schools already had state accreditation, which some private schools lack. And they are more established and have more space available, he said.
John West, an attorney for a group suing to stop the Indiana program, said during a hearing on the issue that only six of the 240 private schools that have signed up for the voucher program are secular.
Our Lady of Hungary Catholic School in South Bend is among those institutions reaping the benefits of the vouchers. Just two years ago, it was threatened with closure by the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. At the time, the bishop said several other schools were at risk of closing, too.
Now enrollment at Our Lady of Hungary has jumped nearly 60 percent over last year, largely because of an influx of voucher students. The halls are bustling more than they have in years.
“This has exceeded all crazy expectations,” Principal Melissa Jay said.
At its height in 1953, the school had 702 students. But that number had fallen to 135 last year. It now has 213 students.
The enrollment boom has forced the school to hire three more teachers. It’s also allowed all but the seventh and eighth grades to be separated into single classes. In years past, the school has combined grade levels because of low enrollment.