It looks like the Indiana House Education Committee will vote Thursday on a plan to significantly expand the state’s already generous private-school voucher program. Hoosiers who care about public education should fight this every step of the way.
First, it’s astonishing how vouchers, a fairly radical idea until recently, have morphed into a middle-class entitlement. Would-be voucher parents imply that they have a right to taxpayer funding of tuition at private schools, most of which are Christian schools. That would have seemed like a far-out idea a couple of years ago.
Second, some Republican officials seem to have embraced the Libertarian position that self-interested parental choice should be the primary driver of education decisions. The logical end point of this thinking is that we should abandon public schools and replace them with a marketplace of school “businesses” motivated by profit or proselytizing.
Third, the debate in the Legislature is racing ahead of the voucher lawsuit that’s currently awaiting a ruling by the Indiana Supreme Court. The voucher system that Gov. Mike Pence and some lawmakers are now pushing is different from the system that was described in legal briefs and testimony for the lawsuit – especially when it comes to the state constitution’s requirement for a “general and uniform system of Common Schools”
Republican House and Senate leaders were smart to pause on amending the state constitution to ban gay marriage and civil unions, reasoning that an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision could have an impact. By the same reasoning, it would make sense to wait to debate expanding vouchers until the state court provides guidance on what’s constitutional.
But ideology, not reason, is driving this train. Let’s hope that some legislators show some common sense, somewhere down the track.