Supreme Court rules for vouchers

The Supreme Court came down heavily in support of religious education when it ruled today that a Montana voucher program that excluded religious schools was unconstitutional. I’ll write more later, but for now, here are a couple of points:

First, the decision doesn’t have any immediate impact on vouchers in Indiana. The Hoosier state, like Montana, has language in its constitution that bars state aid for religious institutions. But the Indiana Supreme Court got around the provision by reasoning that vouchers go to parents, not private schools.

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Pence’s ‘school choice’ in Indiana

Asked a simple question Tuesday about race in America, Vice President Mike Pence deflected to a soliloquy about all the Trump administration has done for African Americans, including the way it has “stood strong for school choice.”

Indiana state flagPence was following the script laid out by the president, who said that school choice is “the civil rights (issue) of all time in this country.”

How does that look from Indiana, where Pence was governor for four years before he hitched his wagon to Trump’s star? Frankly, not so good.

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Voucher growth levels off

The number of students who received private school vouchers in Indiana leveled off last year, marking a possible end to voucher program’s steady growth.

Students enrolled in the program at the start of the 2019-20 school year declined slightly from the previous year. But the state added a second signup period, and some students enrolled late, resulting in a slight increase.

Cover page of voucher reportAccording an Indiana Department of Education report, 36,707 students received vouchers last year. That’s a little over 3% of the state’s K-12 students.

Indiana awarded $172.8 million in vouchers in 2019-20, up from $161.4 million the previous year. Over the program’s nine-year history, state spending for private school vouchers has now topped $1 billion.

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Court removes one hurdle on discrimination

The Supreme Court delivered a huge victory for LGBTQ rights Monday. It remains to be seen whether it will be enough to help teachers and counselors who were fired by Indianapolis Catholic schools for their sexual orientation.

Supreme Court Building

Supreme Court Building

In a landmark 6-3 decision, the court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits job discrimination against gay or transgender employees.

“I think it’s a really big deal,” said Suzanne Eckes, an education law professor at Indiana University. “It’s just wonderful news for equity.”

The opinion, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and the four liberal justices, concluded that the law’s ban on discrimination by sex applies to sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Good results for school referendums

Unemployment is at record levels in Indiana, with hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers out of work. A recession is coming, likely to be deeper than the last one. It seems like a bad time to call for a tax increase.

But voters in 12 school districts approved referendums Tuesday to raise money for school operating expenses and building projects. Yes, they said, raise our property taxes. Because we want to support our students.

Four of the districts passed both operating and building referendums. In all, 16 of the 18 referendums that were on the ballot won approval.

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