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Bill would send taxpayer cash to private schools

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Indiana lawmakers will start the debate Tuesday on the most controversial plank of Gov. Mitch Daniels' sweeping education platform: a plan to use taxpayer money to help parents send their children to private schools.

Republican lawmakers who control the House and Senate have been successful so far in their efforts to shepherd Daniels' education proposals through the legislative process despite objections from many teachers, education unions and minority Democrats. But the voucher bill, which will be debated in the House education committee Tuesday, seems to be raising the most questions.

Opponents are criticizing the proposals' basic principle — shifting public money to private schools — and some lawmakers have more practical concerns that supporters hope to address by amending the bill Tuesday.

"I think there are more questions about this bill among lawmakers than some of the other (education) proposals," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, a Republican from Indianapolis who is one of the bill's sponsors.

One of those is exactly who should qualify for a voucher, which supporters including Bosma have dubbed "school choice scholarships."

Under the plan, money that would typically go to a public school for educating a child would be given to an eligible parent to use at a private school instead. The state won't give parents the entire amount that would have gone to the public school, however, which could mean the state could save money through the program. Only students currently in public schools would be eligible.

The bill uses a sliding scale that gives the most needy families larger vouchers worth 90 percent of the per-student amount that the student's public school receives. For example, if the state now gives about $6,000 to a public school district for a child's education, it could offer low-income families vouchers worth 90 percent of that, or $5,400. The family could use that toward private school tuition, while the state would keep the remaining $600.

Under the proposal, families that qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program — those making about $40,000 a year for a family of four — would be eligible for a 90 percent voucher. However, the sliding scale provides 25 percent vouchers — worth about $1,500 in the example situation — for families of four making more than $100,000 a year.

Bosma said supporters hope to tweak the bill to tighten eligibility requirements to focus on lower-income families.

Daniels says it's a matter of justice that low-income students should have the same choice to attend private schools as wealthier families. He and other advocates say Indiana could lead the nation by creating a wide-reaching statewide voucher program.

"We intend to become the first state of full and true choice by saying to every low- and middle-income Hoosier family, 'If you think a non-government school is the right one for your child, you're as entitled to that option as any wealthy family; here's a voucher, go sign up.'" Daniels said in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

Public school teachers have denounced the voucher proposal, saying it is part of Daniels' agenda to erode public education. The Indiana Coalition for Public Education held a news conference Monday saying taxpayer money shouldn't be directed to private schools, which can deny admission to certain students and don't have to follow the same accountability rules as public schools.

"By providing vouchers for private schools, we are diverting public tax money to private schools," said Joel Hand, the group's executive director. "That is not taxpayer-friendly to our Hoosier citizens and it is not good policy."

Hand said vouchers blur the line between separation of church and state. He also noted that private schools can deny students admission, and he feared the bill would reverse the state's progress on desegregation efforts.

"Public schools are open to all," he said. "Private schools get to pick and choose."

Hand suggested that the bill could be found unconstitutional, but Bosma said constitutional lawyers have reviewed the proposal and assured him it would stand up in court.

If Daniels' previous education proposals — including bills to limit teachers' collective bargaining, expand charter schools and implement teacher merit pay — are any indication, Tuesday's debate could go on for hours as lawmakers work on details and opponents and supporters voice opinions.

"It should be a robust discussion," Bosma said.

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  • If we could all move at the drop of a hat....
    Well, maybe you can easily sell your house in this economy, but many cannot without a loss they cannot afford--so it is not that easy to just move to have a better choice of schools.
  • Separation Church and State
    Separation of church and state...
    This phrase is so misapplied in reference to the First Ten Amendments added to the Constitution. The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    Allowing tax dollars to flow into privately owned schools with a religious foundation is not establishing a religion. The intent of the Founding Fathers was that the Government should not have the power to infringe upon the peopleâ??s right to choose their religious beliefs by establishing a State Religion and prohibiting the establishment of other religions.

    Personally, I don't understand why anyone as a legitimate taxpayer should not have the same access to public money as anyone else in the community. Typically, it seems to me, the middle class is one most hit by lack of choice because either they dont have little enough income to qualify for a break, yet most also donâ??t have enough income to afford the private school option.

    Vouchers, tax deductions or credits should be an option for anyone.
  • Separation of church and state...
    Separation of church and state...
    This phrase is so misapplied in reference to the First Ten Amendments added to the Constitution. The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    Allowing tax dollars to flow into privately owned schools with a religious foundation is not establishing a religion. The intent of the Founding Fathers was that the Government should not have the power to infringe upon the people�s right to choose their religious beliefs by establishing a� State Religion� and prohibiting the establishment of other religions.

    Personally, I don't understand why anyone as a legitimate taxpayer should not have the same access to public money as anyone else in the community. Typically, it seems to me, the middle class is one most hit by lack of choice because either they donââ?¬â?¢t have ââ?¬Ë?little enoughââ?¬â?¢ income to qualify for a break, yet most also donââ?¬â?¢t have enough income to afford the private school option.
  • Taking Money and Running
    Joyce... do you realize that public schools are doing exactly what you are suggesting right now? There is only one "count day" in Indiana right now. Once that enrollment is taken, public schools are then free to expel kids or even force them to become homeschoolers by transferring them rather than dropping them out. (See Richmond Community Schools last year. They even won an award for suddenly having a great graduation rate after they transferred tons of kids to private schooling (homeschooling.))

    Anyway... student mobility in public schools is about 6% before the count day. 94%, or the rest of the students are moving or being moved out of schools AFTER the count day, thus leaving their funding behind.

    I believe Dr. Bennett has proposed multiple count days where funding follows the student; even if they're mobile for whatever reason. Wouldn't that be a great idea for ALL public schools?

    And finally... what makes everyone think that the half of one percent of children getting a voucher will automatically find a reason to get themselves expelled from private school? OR why would private schools just indiscriminately expel kids just to keep their money? Seems like a stretch of what happens in the real world, don't you?
  • Not an option for everyone
    The option to up and move is not available to everyone. Especially the population this voucher is trying to â??serveâ??. If you are a low income family that is just not an option in most cases.
  • discipline / teachers
    Why can't public schools remove those that are disruptive? If the republicans and democratic would change the laws and allow more discipline in the schools there wouldn't be such a problem. Let's work on things like this not whether my wife, who has been a teacher for 11 years,and makes less than 40,000 dollars, pays 150 dollars a month for insurance and that just medical she has no dental or vision insurance. These teachers want waaaaaay too much, so these greeeeedy teachers.
  • choice
    Correct me if I'm wrong but can you not select where your child goes to school? You can move.
    • Faith based schools
      It should not be overlooked that attacking collcctive bargaining of public teachers, and reducing funding for public schools, goes hand in hand with increasing funding to private schools, most of which are faith based. This is a right-wing agenda, plain and simple.
    • Not wallowing, improving
      I must not have made myself understood. I'm saying that the time, money and effort diverted to this voucher program would be better diverted towards fixing the schools that we have. Instead of "saving" the few students we can by shipping them off to private schools, we need to save all of the students in the public school system. An easy way of doing that would just be to raise curricular standards on all levels and challenge students in all of their courses, not just the AP ones. If we demand excellence from our students in both the elementary and secondary levels of education, then students who chose to go to college will also be better prepared for it while those who choose to go straight into the workforce will at least have enough education to understand and communicate as intellectuals with the world around them.
    • so let all the kids suffer?
      So let's all wallow in mediocrity for the sake of our community...good idea! sometimes you have to use your head and not your heart as much as it may hurt...
      • Skirting the issue
        As a freshman in college and a student who attended parochial school, IPS school #59 and went to Lawrence North High School, I can attest to the low quality of public education. While I can say that my high school did the best that it could educating me, I still feel that some of my classmates still deserved more from the public school system than the bare minimum in the school's scholastic expectations for them. I'm attending a private liberal arts school on the east coast, and as I look at my current classmates who attended private schools like Exeter, I can't help but feel that I have been cheated by the public school system. But I digress; instead of shipping kids off to private schools, why doesn't the state try to improve the quality of a public school education and make it comparable to that of a private school education? Why does the state not try to develop and produce intellectual minds capable of competing with students from other states, socio-economic classes AND other nations? Before trying to take more money and more students out of the public school system, the state needs to look at effective methods to fix it.
      • What about me?
        Where is it my responsibility to take care of someone other than my family. I can choose to help, but why should force be used to make me help.

        Life is a risk. Someone told me once that you can't choose your parents, but you can make your own choices. I find it tragic that parents don't stress the importance of learning, but it is not fair to my children to have to face the burden in the classroom where kids don't care.

        Education is NOT a right! Government education for all these years has done nothing but divide us as a nation and have convinced the masses that they are entitled. Government education needs competition! What is the government education industry scared of facing? Private school isn't a threat because only a few have the financial means after they have had their income confiscated through the tax system.

        They fear choice!
      • What about me?
        RE: ddd So I have a parent that doesn't care. So I get the shaft? How is that fair? How will that help education in Indiana? How will that help our society? I want a decent education, but my parents are not doing their job...what about me? You are right that the public schools become a daycare, but how is that right or helpful to our community? Don't we believe that every child deserves a quality education regardless of who or what their parents are? Yes, the truth hurts...that someone could be so cold and heartless!
        • Public Dollars
          Let me get this right. Only poor incomes defined by the elite are eligible for my tax dollars in the voucher program. Their kids education is more important than my kids education.

          What are you afraid of facing? Competition in education? Government is the only true monopoly and it is showing as the government workers are being threatend w/pseudo education.

          Go back and read the First Amendment! Only through years of government education would you think that my tax dollars couldnt be used in religious schools. The government isnt sanctioning a religion w/the voucher program - they are giving families a choice. Unfortunately, the law wont be applied equally and only the families w/lower incomes will be eligible. Interesting enough it is more of a tax credit since the lower income families won't pay the taxes being given to them.
        • Private Schools
          Private schools can expel any kid they want. Public shcools can't. As soon as the deadline for funding comes, the private schools will kick the bad kids out and keep the tax dollars. The expelled kids then go back to public schools, but the money doesn't go with them. This IS all about money.
        • free market
          this will encourage more private schools to open to seek the tuition money...if a parent truly cares they will take advantage and send their kids to the best school they can. competition will force the schools to be better! GET IT? the parents that don't care can send their kids to the bad schools that will basically be daycare with security guards...the truth hurts sometimes.
          • Admitting defeat
            My biggest problem with this bill is the language around it, essentially suggesting public school systems have failed and our goal now is to save as many of the smart ones as we can and throw them into some suburban bourgeois establishment like park tudor, only so they can develop a really bad sense of entitlment like every other kid from above 71st st grows up with.... its not a bad concept on paper, but you have to wonder if maybe indiana would like to phase out public education in order to pay for unnesecary infrastructure improvements like the 69 expansion that probably wont yield any return except for the asphault and concrete companies pushing for it. We could be funding public transportation so kids have a way to get to school as opposed to parents wasting their time waiting on a bus or driving kids to class cause the streets are too dangerous for anyone to walk or bike with so many cars ..... UGHHHH wheres the COMMON SENSE !?!?! Where you at Thomas Paine !!?
          • Money
            Ironically this bill has nothing to do with education and everything to do with lower taxes by firing teachers. Subcontracted parties are much easier to fire and decrease pay than a public school teacher. Nobody cares about your kidâ??s education; this is about money.
          • Not enough to help the truly poor
            This bill is "designed to help poor families have a choice." I'm sorry to say that 90% of $6,000 is not enough for a poor family to send their child to private school. Non-parochial schools are out of the question with tuitions over $15,000. That leaves religious schools (so we are already reducing their choice). But then again, that poor family would have to pay tuition, books, fees, and provide their own transportation. All of which will not be covered by the small tax credit they are promised. In reality, this bill is a tax break for those wealthy enough to afford private school. It will not allow a truly poor family to suddenly be able to afford the cost of private education.
          • The Real issue
            I have been an Indiana resident for 10 years and I have been listening to the education issues over and over again. Unfortunately, everyone tip toes around the REAL issue with Indiana public education, it stinks. If you have never experienced anything but what the public schools here have to offer, it is a shame. Anyone who can afford to send his/her children to private school should, and thank goodness our Governor is trying to make it affordable to everyone. Look at the the education children get (for free) in states like New York and Ohio. Indiana owes its children the opportunity to compete with kids educated publicly in other states!!
          • Actually......
            http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/02/sarah_and_the_san_francisco_po.html
          • Is This Best We Can Do?
            Basically the middle class gets it stuck to them once again. My family cannot afford to send our children to private school to begin with and now a $600 voucher is supposed to pay tuition, books, etc.? Our hard earned money and paid state taxes would be split between public and private schools. As a direct result our children attending public schools get even fewer resources for their education. Aren't there alternatives Mitch?
          • This is quite simple
            This bill is for inner city parents who want to be able to send their kids to actually good schools, instead of the free-fire zones that idiotic leftist policies have facilitated. This is something that will actually help poor people, instead of using them as cattle to get votes for policies that are counter-productive.

            If you want an example of how NOT to do it, look at Detroit. If you want failure, put in powerful teacher unions, make sure the kids have no choice as to where they go to school, and make it impossible to expel or discipline problem children.

            If you want success, implement free market principles. People with money send their kids to private schools. Why? Generally speaking, they are better.

            The Left is on precisely the wrong side of this issue. The status quo favors the rich and punishes the poor.

            As far as the separation of church and State, first of all it is not in the Constitution. All the First Amendment says is that religious speech will be neither curtailed nor compelled. That's it.

            Second of all, anyone who doesn't want religious education can still send their kids to public schools--which have been thoroughly scoured to prevent any moral education outside of tolerance--but parents who WANT a religious education for their kids can now afford it.

            Strange as it may seem, many of us value the worship of God, and see efforts to eradicate God from our schools as mean-spirited, anti-Constitutional, short-sighted, and working to the detriment of our social order.

            This is a wonderful bill. I hope it passes, and that the idea spreads around the country. We need to end the protected sinecures of incompetents, ideological hacks, the morally obtuse, and the lazy.

            Self evidently they will whine about it. That only signals that this is a good idea.
          • Again Amy
            Again Amy, I suspect you are completely selfish in your thoughts. How could you have a problem with the separation of church and state? YOU send your child to private (i'm guessing catholic) school. Secondly, your selfishness shows AGAIN with your comment about why current students enrolled at private schools don't qualify for the voucher. You feel that you should qualify. If you cared about the children who come from poverty, than you wouldn't be complaining about paying for them. Which is it Amy? You're appalled because you can't get a voucher or appalled at the law as ineffective policy in educating children. Children, who I might add can't afford the luxuries you can for your children. Who I also add, other tax payers provide in the form of your salary and benefits. You teachers need to be put in your place.
          • Get real Amy
            I want a tax refund then because I am paying twice for my kids education if they go to a private school.
          • FREE, PUBLIC education
            As a public school teacher, taxpayer, and parent of a child in private school I am completely appaled at this bill. First of all, the public should NOT be paying for private schools. Most private schools are religious and, correct me if I'm wrong, but with a separation of church and state comes YOUR right NOT to pay for my child's religion classes. Second of all, there is the part saying that the vouchers are only open to students currently enrolled in public schools: What is the reasoning behind that? Mitch? Anyone?

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