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Lawmakers draw close on limited voucher-expansion plan

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Indiana lawmakers drew closer Thursday to approving a modest expansion of the state's school voucher program following a meeting of House and Senate lawmakers.

Members of the voucher conference committee considered slight adjustments to a Senate proposal that expands access for siblings of students already enrolled in the voucher program, increased the amount of each voucher by $200 and eliminated a one-year wait for any student who would attend a "failing" public school.

Conferees are considering raising the amount of each voucher by $400 and expanding the number of students who qualify for a state voucher if they received a voucher from a scholarship granting organization.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said he would work to approve a more ambitious proposal before lawmakers wrap up their 2013 session at the end of next week.

"Our goal will be to make it closer, obviously, to the House version. To give more low-income, inner-city families the opportunity to have a school of choice. The Senate version still expanded the voucher program. It just did so in a much more modest fashion," Bosma said. "We'll end up some place in the middle, is my hope."

House Republicans approved a measure that would have increased voucher amounts by $1,000, raised income requirements for some families and eliminated a one-year wait in public schools. But Senate Democrats and Republicans expressed concerns with potentially turning the voucher program into a subsidy for families already sending their children to private school, a costly proposition for the state.

Democrats on the conference committee failed to delay the expansion Thursday by putting the question to a summer study committee.

"My concern as we continue to expand the voucher system, is that at what point are we actually leaving a choice for our kids that are in our public schools?" asked Rep. Shelli VanDenburgh, D-Crown Point. "At what point do they get to the point they can't function because they're not receiving enough dollars because they don't have enough students?"

Legislative analysts have not affixed a firm price tag this year to opening the doors for all students to win vouchers, but previous estimates have placed the cost at more than $100 million. House Education Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said the point could be moot, however, because Indiana's private schools cannot accommodate all of the state's roughly 1 million students.

"It's limited by capacity," he said, noting a 2011 estimate that there were 22,000 seats available in Indiana's private schools. "We could say it would move a million kids over to non-public schools, but there are not a million seats in non-public schools."

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  1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

  2. Why do we blame the unions? They did not create the 11 different school districts that are the root of the problem.

  3. I was just watching an AOW race from cleveland in 1997...in addition to the 65K for the race, there were more people in boats watching that race from the lake than were IndyCar fans watching the 2014 IndyCar season finale in the Fontana grandstands. Just sayin...That's some resurgence modern IndyCar has going. Almost profitable, nobody in the grandstands and TV ratings dropping 61% at some tracks in the series. Business model..."CRAZY" as said by a NASCAR track general manager. Yup, this thing is purring like a cat! Sponsors...send them your cash, pronto!!! LOL, not a chance.

  4. I'm sure Indiana is paradise for the wealthy and affluent, but what about the rest of us? Over the last 40 years, conservatives and the business elite have run this country (and state)into the ground. The pendulum will swing back as more moderate voters get tired of Reaganomics and regressive social policies. Add to that the wave of minority voters coming up in the next 10 to 15 years and things will get better. unfortunately we have to suffer through 10 more years of gerrymandered districts and dispropionate representation.

  5. Funny thing....rich people telling poor people how bad the other rich people are wanting to cut benefits/school etc and that they should vote for those rich people that just did it. Just saying..............

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