By Megan Erbacher
The Message assistant editor
Editor’s note: This is part of a series highlighting the 10th anniversary of Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program.
It’s always been important to Erin Obenchain that her children receive a Catholic-based education, despite her family living in a school district with “excellent public elementary schools.”
“I want my children to pray every day and learn as much about their faith as they can,” she said.
About 10 years ago, Erin and her husband, Stephen, were deciding where to send their kids to school.
“At the time, my oldest was going into second grade; I had one starting kindergarten and a baby in daycare,” Erin said. “My husband had just graduated, and my income was not enough to have two children at St. John the Baptist Catholic School and one in daycare. I hated the thought of leaving SJB.”
Thanks to Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program, the kids didn’t have to leave St. John the Baptist in Newburgh, the family’s home parish. Stephen and Erin were advised to apply for a voucher through the program.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Indiana's Choice Scholarship Program, commonly known as the voucher program, which allows parents and guardians to choose the school they believe is best for their kids. In the spring of 2011, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels signed Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program into law. In the past 10 years, more than a quarter-million Indiana students have benefitted from the voucher program.
Erin and Stephen have five children; their oldest two kids now attend Reitz Memorial High School, and their other three kids attend St. John the Baptist in Newburgh. Hailey, 17, is a junior, and Emily, 14, is a freshman, both are at Reitz Memorial. At St. John the Baptist, Ryan, 12, is a seventh-grader; Jacquelyn, 9, is in third grade; and Molly, 6, is a first-grader.
“Without the voucher program, we would not be able to afford Memorial and St. John,” Erin said. “We have been able to benefit from the voucher program from the beginning.”
At first, Erin said she was reluctant to accept the help, and she believes some other families may feel like they don’t qualify and shouldn’t apply.
“I would say to them, if a Catholic education is important to you, fill out the paperwork,” she said. “I'm so thankful for the St. John and Memorial communities. I can't imagine going through the last ten years without the love and support of those teachers and families.”