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Indiana Republicans resolute for private school voucher program expansion

Republican lawmakers remain resolute on their push for a big expansion of Indiana’s private school voucher program in the face of pushback from public school leaders across the state.

Posted: Mar 27, 2021 6:41 PM
Updated: Mar 28, 2021 12:46 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican lawmakers remain resolute on their push for a big expansion of Indiana’s private school voucher program in the face of pushback from public school leaders across the state.

The Republican-dominated state Senate has not yet unveiled any revisions to the voucher expansion plan approved in February by the House, and which is projected to boost the program’s cost by nearly 50% over the next two years.

More than 100 public school boards have approved resolutions against the expansion, which could consume nearly 40% of the total K-12 state funding increase touted by Republicans.

About the only doubt is how large of an expansion will make it through the Legislature in the coming weeks, despite the complete opposition from Democrats.

Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray of Martinsville said Republican senators have discussed the potential cost of the voucher expansion but remain firm with the GOP line that “money follows the child” and that the state is funding students, not schools.

“That’s how we’re going to continue to do this because we think that that ability for a parent to choose where his or her daughter or son goes is the best way forward,” Bray said.

Indiana started the program that provides state money to help families pay for private school tuition in 2011. In that time, it has grown from $16 million in payments for about 3,900 students to an estimated $174 million for some 37,000 students this school year.

The House-approved changes raising the family eligibility limits and increasing maximum payments for many families would boost participation by some 12,000 students, or about one-third, over the next two years and increase the cost nearly 50% to an estimated $258 million for the 2022-23 school year.

About 1 million students attend traditional public schools in the state.

Dozens of public and private school leaders and parents were among those who testified Thursday before a Senate committee about the funding plan.

Joseph Miller, principal at St. Adalbert Catholic School in South Bend, said the voucher expansion would allow many students to stay at his school.

Miller said 90% of the school’s 220 students are Latino from low-income families, with almost all of them using vouchers to pay tuition.

“They chose us because we are safe, academically challenging and caring,” Miller said.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Aleesia Johnson joined other voucher expansion foes who maintain traditional public schools are being shortchanged with only about a 60% share of the state funding boost while educating about 90% of Indiana’s students.

“We have seen the state focus more on equality than equity,” Johnson said about Indiana’s student funding formula. “Can we say we are equitable in expanding voucher eligibility ... when we know special education students and (English-learning) students’ funding remains stagnant, and we know those students need help?”

The House budget plan would increase the overall base funding for K-12 schools by 1.25% during the first year and 2.5% in the second year of the new budget that would start in July. That would mean about $378 million more for total school funding over the two years — with about $125 million possibly going to additional voucher costs and $19 million to a new program allowing parents to directly spend state money on their child’s education expenses

The voucher plan approved by the House would raise income eligibility for a family of four from the current roughly $96,000 a year to about $145,000 in 2022.

It also would allow all those students to receive the full voucher amount, rather than the current tiered system that limits full vouchers to such families with incomes of about $48,000.

Public schools officials also worry that the Republican budget plan will hurt districts with high poverty rates by not increasing the extra per-student funding those districts receive, including for students with disabilities, English language learners and homeless students.

That extra funding has dropped 41% over the past five years — from $1,160 per student in 2014 to $693 last year, said David Marcotte, executive director of the Indiana Urban School Association.

“The funding needs to be increased for those high complexity schools so that children of high poverty can get what they need,” he said. “That’s why now is not the time to fund voucher expansion. The state of Indiana just can’t afford it because we can’t even afford appropriate funding for 90% of the students who attend traditional public schools.”

Senate and House negotiators will finalize a new state spending plan after a new tax revenue forecast is released in early April.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston maintains that the turmoil in schools caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for school choice options.

“I think this is the absolute right time to support parents’ ability to find the right schools for their kids,” Huston said. “I couldn’t imagine a better time to do it than right now.”

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 708779

Reported Deaths: 13226
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion966191721
Lake51761946
Allen39224672
Hamilton34549405
St. Joseph34157541
Elkhart27356432
Vanderburgh22081394
Tippecanoe21853212
Porter17935299
Johnson17544374
Hendricks16822310
Clark12697190
Madison12353337
Vigo12219244
Monroe11469166
LaPorte11162204
Delaware10366184
Howard9664211
Kosciusko9134114
Hancock7990139
Bartholomew7893155
Warrick7691155
Floyd7563176
Wayne6906198
Grant6844171
Boone6556100
Morgan6405138
Dubois6085117
Marshall5786108
Dearborn570376
Cass5685102
Henry5579101
Noble542683
Jackson493569
Shelby479495
Lawrence4342118
Gibson429089
Harrison428570
Clinton419753
Montgomery418086
DeKalb411184
Whitley380239
Huntington379880
Miami372865
Knox366689
Steuben365757
Putnam353160
Jasper350946
Wabash347878
Adams338052
Ripley334668
Jefferson313180
White308454
Daviess289499
Wells286481
Decatur279092
Fayette277262
Greene270785
Posey268833
Scott261153
LaGrange253670
Clay253544
Randolph235680
Washington231031
Spencer228031
Jennings225047
Fountain208845
Sullivan207942
Starke204752
Owen192356
Fulton192039
Jay186429
Carroll185920
Perry180736
Orange177853
Rush170724
Vermillion166043
Franklin165635
Tipton161043
Parke144616
Blackford133831
Pike130334
Pulaski113845
Newton104234
Brown100140
Crawford97614
Benton97113
Martin82915
Warren79715
Switzerland7698
Union69910
Ohio55811
Unassigned0408

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1054807

Reported Deaths: 18991
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1225191356
Cuyahoga1074592069
Hamilton783261168
Montgomery50176996
Summit45557909
Lucas40298765
Butler37768570
Stark31513895
Lorain24246473
Warren23910293
Mahoning20946583
Lake20067362
Clermont19459229
Delaware18085130
Licking16149207
Fairfield15757197
Trumbull15627460
Medina14922259
Greene14706236
Clark13660293
Wood12806185
Portage12431196
Allen11352229
Richland11067198
Miami10548214
Muskingum8717127
Wayne8594209
Columbiana8569226
Pickaway8439121
Marion8390135
Tuscarawas8387240
Erie7600154
Hancock6730123
Ross6707146
Geauga6553146
Ashtabula6530165
Scioto6295101
Belmont5634158
Union558447
Lawrence5470102
Jefferson5343147
Huron5314114
Darke5273121
Sandusky5189120
Seneca5139120
Washington5087107
Athens503856
Auglaize476284
Mercer471984
Shelby456590
Knox4397108
Madison423959
Putnam421799
Ashland413488
Fulton410567
Defiance404296
Crawford3883101
Brown386955
Logan374476
Preble371098
Clinton362160
Ottawa357978
Highland347459
Williams328674
Champaign321557
Jackson308551
Guernsey307549
Perry290549
Fayette278048
Morrow275939
Hardin264764
Henry264366
Coshocton259857
Holmes253499
Van Wert239262
Pike233831
Gallia233446
Adams229152
Wyandot227553
Hocking209759
Carroll189447
Paulding168838
Meigs141738
Noble132937
Monroe128941
Morgan106823
Harrison105636
Vinton81614
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
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Angola
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Huntington
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Fort Wayne
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Lima
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Significantly cold air settles in across northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio Tuesday night.
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