40 percent of local students choosing not to attend South Bend Schools

NOW: 40 percent of local students choosing not to attend South Bend Schools

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Indiana's school choice program has a big financial impact on South Bend Schools. Of the more than 23,000 students living in the City of South Bend, 40 percent do not attend the school corporation, which means the district gets less money.

Soon-to-be high school senior Diamond Curry was a student at Clay High School in South Bend before it closed, opting to go to a private school rather than stay in the district.

"Private was better for us mainly because you get a little bit better treatment with teachers," Curry said. "Why not go to a school that we know will try to push me to do as best as I can in academics and sports also."

He's not alone; enrollment had been dropping for over a decade, and none of the district high schools were above 60 percent capacity besides Adams.

A new financial report from Indiana Public Media shows 187 school districts in the Hoosier state suffered enrollment losses because of school choice.

The district most financially impacted in the whole state is the South Bend Community School Corporation, with voucher loss representing 27.6 percent of its education fund.

Overall, the district has a net loss of 40.7 percent of all students due to vouchers, with 19.1 percent of students living in the district going to private schools, and another 21.6 percent going to other districts or charter schools.

The school corporation, working to "right size" the district, ultimately resulted in the controversial closing of Clay High School and the loss of more students like Curry.

"You could tell after they announced they were closing, they couldn't care less if they were at school," Curry said. "It was not a fun environment to be in anymore."

ABC57 reached out to South Bend Superintendent Dr. Todd Cummings, and while he declined an interview, he sent a statement that reads: 

"...[W]e are committed to competing for every student and family. We are proud to report that our literacy rates are soaring, and the graduation rates are the highest in 20 years. Our array of offerings, including associate degrees and dual credits, demonstrates our dedication to serving and retaining students in South Bend Schools."

That graduation rate is 84.7 percent, which is not something to brag about if you ask Curry.

"You're just now getting to 84 percent?" he said. "That's not something anyone should be proud of, you should have been at that level for however long you've been a corporation."

Overall, in Indiana, nearly one in five students do not attend their home school district. School Choice is more popular than ever in the Hoosier state.

The full report from WFYI can be found here.

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