IBJNews

Bill that would shift Indiana voucher oversight advances

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Indiana's new Democratic state schools superintendent would no longer oversee the private school voucher program that she has opposed under a proposal approved Tuesday by a Republican-controlled legislative committee.

The House Education Committee voted 7-4 along party lines to endorse the bill that would move the handling of applications for the vouchers and distribution of the money to the state's Office of Management and Budget, which reports to Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

The vote sparked quick criticism from Democrats, who accused Republicans of playing politics with schools superintendent Glenda Ritz. The GOP controls the General Assembly, the governor's office and all other elected executive offices.

"We have one lone Democrat serving in this entire Statehouse and it just happens to be Superintendent Glenda Ritz," said Democratic Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh of Crown Point, who charged the measure challenged Ritz's integrity and capabilities. "This is very political."

The proposal was authored by committee Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, who introduced the bill by citing Ritz's involvement in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the voucher program before her election last fall.

"She does not believe public dollars should go to private schools," said Behning, a leading sponsor of the state voucher law adopted in 2011. "She's said that many times, pre-election and postelection."

Committee Democrats and a top aide to Ritz said she hasn't done anything to interfere with the voucher program since she took office Jan. 14.

"We believe that it is an unnecessary taking away of a power of the superintendent at a time when she has not even had the chance, really, to settle into her job," said John Barnes, Ritz's legislative liaison.

Ritz, a former suburban Indianapolis school librarian, won election last year with a grass-roots campaign fueled by teacher anger over education changes Bennett pushed.

She was a plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the voucher program but withdrew after she won election. The state Supreme Court heard arguments in that case in late November but hasn't yet ruled.

Behning also questioned why the Department of Education hadn't opened the voucher application period for parents in February as former Republican superintendent Tony Bennett had done.

Leaders of some private schools told the committee that Department of Education's decision to accept voucher applications in February last year helped parents make early decisions on whether to enroll their children.

Holy Cross Central School Principal Ruth Tinsley said about 90 of 210 students received vouchers to attend the Catholic school near downtown Indianapolis.

"Our families will have to wait and are concerned about making that decision now because without the vouchers they would not be able to attend the school," Tinsley said.

Barnes attributed delays to the recent transition in leadership and said the agency hoped to begin accepting voucher applications soon.

Senate education committee Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, said Tuesday he would consider holding a hearing on the voucher oversight proposal if it clears the House. He had previously declined to take action on any Senate bills that would shift responsibilities away from Ritz.

Kruse said he hasn't heard any complaints about how the Education Department is handling the voucher program.

"I think the voucher law should be fully implemented by the Department of Education and they should not stall or hold it up," Kruse said. "If they are stalling, I would not like that."

The state is paying some $37 million to provide voucher to about 9,100 students this school year. The House Republican budget proposal forecasts spending for the voucher program will grow over the next two years to $63 million annually with 15,000 students.

Behning, the House education chairman, said he had questioned whether the Education Department was the proper agency to oversee the voucher program when it was adopted two years ago and wasn't sure the Office of Management and Budget would end up handling the process.

"I really would rather create an independent group and create a structure that may have more independence," he said. "That's just where it is today."

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Small government??
    So the solution for those opposed to bloated bureaucracy is to create another agency? Brilliant. It must hurt to twist your body that way.
  • Winners and whiners
    The Repubs won the seats. The Dems, and the teacher union PAC, lost the schools loooooonnnnng ago. So what if there is a dem heading education. Decades of education leadership ineptness have led to this voucher program. Had you liberal socialists REALLY cared about the kids over the past fifty or so years we wouldn't be having this discussion. You don't have any better ideas than to throw more good money after bad (do you even now what that means?). So why do so many want vouchers?
  • Glad I Don't Have Kids
    Once again partisan politics plays a role in dumbing down Indiana education. Idiots.
  • Give the woman a chance to do her job.
    To Indiana Republicans: You lost the State Superintendent of Public Instruction race in November. Tony Bennett was despised and voted out. Time to let it go. A majority of voters would like to give Ritz a chance. Let her do her job and honor the will of the people. But if you did that, then you wouldn't be the Indiana GOP.

    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT

    facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
    Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
     
    Subscribe to IBJ
    1. Hello Dear Are you tired of Seeking Loans and Mortgages,have you Been Turned down constantly By your banks and Other Financial Institutions or Micro Finance scheme. This is let you know with 100% guarantee that we Offer loans ranging from $1,000 Minimum to $1,000,000.00 Maximum at 3% interest rate per Month. We give out LOANS for developing business. a competitive edge/business expansion. email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com We offer the following kinds of loans and many more; * Personal Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Business Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Consolidation Loan * Combination Loan * Home Improvement * Xmas Loans for contact to seek for loan email this email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com Thanks

    2. My name is Mr Henry Josh and i live in the USA California and life is worth living right now for me and my family and all this is because of one man sent by GOD to help me and my family, i once had a life filled with sorrow because my first SON needed a kidney transplant and all our savings were going towards his medications and this normally leaves us with no money to pay our bills or even put enough food on our table and our rent was due and no funds to pay these bills and life felt so unfair to me and every night my wife will cry herself to sleep every night until one day, i was browsing through yahoo answers and i saw a striking advert of a man that gives out personal loans and that the offer is opened to all and i have heard so many things about internet scams but at this point of my life, i was very desperate and ready to take any risk and at the end of the day, i applied for this loan and from one step to another, i got my loan within 12 hours through bank transfer and you know, it was all like a dream and i called Mr Daniel Jones A Man who is the GOD sent lender i found and said, i have received my loan and he smiled stating that to GOD be the glory and i was so shocked as i have never ever seen anyone with such a GOD fearing and kind heart and today, i am the happiest man on earth because by GOD’S grace, my SON kidney transplant was successful and today he is healthy, i and my family are living very comfortable and happy and if you are in my former situation or in serious and legitimate need of a loan, you can reach this GOD sent lender via fidelityloanfirm@outlook.com

    3. Greetings to everyone reading this comment!!! I am Greg William by name. I am out here to recommend the effort of Mark Oscar,I was in need of a consolidation loan amount of 50,000 and as soon as I got in contact with Mark Oscar Loan Firm on Wednesday last week and on Friday last week as well I receive an alert from my bank(Royal Bank of Scotland Group) that the fund was transferred,I want everybody on this site to contact Mark Oscar now via email on how to get a loan because I got my loan from them and I am very happy,so contact them now. Oscarloanfinance@hotmail.com Thanks!!!!!!

    4. Elected officials, like Mourdock, get vested in 8 years. It takes 10 years for all other public employees, most of whom make a lot less money. So much for the promise to finish out his term.

    5. Great state treasurer and a good man!! Just curious if the folks who didn't quite understand his quote would like to tell my daughter-in-law that God didn't intend her! Mourdock's comment was correct but twisted and the article didn't mention that his opponent and the press let the impression stand that Mourdock meant that the rape was intended. Stupid people!!

    ADVERTISEMENT