A Christian group teaches public school students during the school day. Their footprint is growing

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Ohio nonprofit that provides off-site Bible instruction to public school students during classroom hours says it will triple its programs in Indiana this fall after new legislation forced school districts to comply.

To participating families, nondenominational LifeWise Academy programs supplement religious instruction. But critics in Indiana worry the programs spend public school resources on religion, proselytize to students of other faiths and remove children from class in a state already struggling with literacy.

LifeWise programs will be available at over 520 locations in 23 states next school year, up from 331 in 13 states this year, and about 31,000 students attend LifeWise programs in the U.S., Penton said.

Penton wants LifeWise to be available to “50 million public school students nationwide,” he said.

In Indiana, Republican state Rep. Kendell Culp introduced the legislation requiring principals to allow students to attend release-time religious education after a rural school stopped cooperating with LifeWise. The bill was signed into law in March and subsequently 45 Indiana schools will work with the company this fall, triple the number from last year.