Indiana school voucher bill – more radical than expected

Taxpayers would subsidize private-school tuition for families that make more than $100,000 a year under school-voucher legislation introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives.

The bill would award “choice scholarships” to help pay tuition for just about any student who moves from a public to a private school, except for those from the wealthiest families, as Scott Elliott explains in the Indianapolis Star. You can read the bill on the state legislature’s website.

Robert Enlow, head of the pro-voucher Foundational for Educational Choice, tells the Star that Indiana “would certainly jump to the head of the class” with passage of the bill. Nate Schellenberger, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, says it “sounds like another of the continual attempts coming from the (Daniels) administration to destroy public education in Indiana.”

Students who already attend private schools would not be eligible for the scholarships.

Private schools would have to be accredited to benefit from the vouchers, but that’s about all. Unlike public charter schools, they could reject voucher students based on their own admission rules. They wouldn’t have to adopt a curriculum that complies with state standards. Apparently they wouldn’t need to be accountable or transparent in any way to the taxpayers who will support them.

Gov. Mitch Daniels has been speaking out for a voucher program, which provides public funding for students to attend private schools. But he has consistently implied that they were needed to help low-income families provide better opportunities for their children, especially those stuck in failing schools. That’s not what we’re talking about here.

The “choice scholarships” in the Behning-Bosma proposal, House Bill 1003, would be based on per-pupil state funding for the school district where a student lives, which ranges from $5,500 to almost $12,000. Families could receive 90 percent of the per-pupil amount if their kids qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches. They would get 50 percent of the amount if their income is double the reduced-price lunch limit and 25 percent if their income is two and a half times the limit.

As Elliott writes, a family of four with an income of $105,000 a year would qualify for the 25 percent subsidy. Similar vouchers would go to a family of five with an income of about $120,000, or a family of six that makes over $136,000.

Daniels, in an interview with the Star’s Mary Beth Schneider, said it was a matter of “simple justice” to help “families of modest incomes who believe that a non-government school is best for their child.” Maybe $100,000-plus is a “modest income” in the governor’s world. It’s not for most Hoosiers.

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One thought on “Indiana school voucher bill – more radical than expected

  1. Pingback: CEEP survey on K-12 education: mixed messages for policymakers « School Matters

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