Pat Rooney and Educational Choice

  • Education
  • 1991

In 1991, insurance executive Patrick Rooney established the CHOICE Trust, a first-of-its-kind program to provide vouchers enabling low-income parents in Indianapolis to send their children to private or parochial schools. Families could qualify to have half the cost of tuition covered. Seeded by a gift from Rooney, the Trust was also supported by other philanthropic foundations and corporations. In the three days following its creation, the CHOICE program received over 600 applications, and 900 more poured in over ensuing months. The startling demand from Indianapolis parents led the trust to expand the number of vouchers it funded in its first year from 500 to 744. As the program continued to grow in size and popularity, it widened eligibility to include parents outside of Indianapolis, bringing educational choice to a greater proportion of Indiana families. Rooney’s program is credited with inspiring the creation of similar voucher organizations across the country, with one estimate putting the number of successor groups at over 100. Since its founding, the trust has provided more than $20 million in tuition support for Indiana children.

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