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Indiana lawmaker seeks to close voucher law loophole

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A state lawmaker plans to sponsor a bill seeking to close a loophole that bars the children of some military families from taking part in Indiana's school voucher program.

State Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, told WRTV-TV for a story that aired Monday he intends to introduce a bill in the Legislature's next session to close the loophole in the state's 2-year-old voucher law.

"These people have enlisted and joined the armed services, deployed all over the world. As long as are paying taxes, they should have the availability of the services the state makes available," said Behning, the chairman of the House Education Committee.

Indiana lawmakers last year approved the nation's broadest voucher program for low-to-moderate income families. In the 2011-12 school year, nearly 4,000 students took advantage of the law that allows parents to send their children to private schools using state funding.

But U.S. Army Sgt. David Greer recently learned that his 11-year-old daughter, Kaylee, wasn't eligible for a voucher to attend Christ the King Catholic School in Indianapolis. Greer's family owns a home in Indianapolis and pays local property taxes, but they've been living in Georgia, where Greer has been stationed at Fort Gordon.

Indiana's school voucher program stipulates that a student must attend an Indiana public school for one year before seeking a voucher to attend a parochial or charter school. That excludes Greer's daughter from taking part in the program for the coming school year.

"I just find it appalling. I don't think any state military members should be treated as out of state, out of mind," Greer said. "I'm basically being treated as if I'm not an Indiana citizen, as if I am not a Hoosier."

Officials with the Indiana Department of Education said that leaving active-duty military families out of the law was an oversight. As written, the state's law does not allow for a waiver or an appeals process.

Indiana lawmakers would have to make any change, said department spokesman Alex Damron.

"We would support members of the Legislature seeking to allow military families access to the program sooner rather than later," Damron said.

Indiana's voucher law has been challenged in court by opponents who say it violates the state constitution by funneling tax dollars to religious institutions. But supporters say the program gives families more education options.

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