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Pence signs Indiana voucher expansion bill

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Gov. Mike Pence expanded Indiana's private school voucher program Thursday, signing a law that immediately opens the program to siblings of current voucher students and children living in the districts of failing public schools.

Pence went to Calvary Christian School on the south side of Indianapolis to sign the plan approved by the Republican-dominated Legislature that will make more children eligible for vouchers without first having to spend at least one year in public schools.

"Our Hoosier students deserve every opportunity to be successful," Pence said in a statement. "That includes having the choice to attend the school that works best for them. Thanks to this legislation, Hoosier students and their families now have more educational options available to meet their individual needs."

Opponents, however, say the voucher expansion will hurt public schools by draining state funds away from them.

About 9,100 Indiana students currently receive vouchers in the second school year of one of the nation's largest voucher programs.

That number is certain to rise under the law that no longer requires voucher recipients to first attend one year in public schools if they have a sibling receiving a voucher or live in the attendance district of a school that received a state performance grade of F. The new law also allows voucher recipients to continue receiving them if their family incomes rise above the base income threshold, a sliding scale that includes $65,352 for a family of four.

The new law also increases voucher caps from $4,500 to $4,700 next year and $4,800 the following year, said Rep. Behning, who authored the legislation

"This law gives more Hoosier students the opportunity to access the School Choice program, meaning parents and students will have a greater say in their education," Behning said in a statement. "It is imperative for us to fight for every student to have the best education possible so that they can start off on the right foot and realize their greatest potential."

The Fort Wayne Community Schools, with a total enrollment of 30,600, has lost 1,200 students to vouchers, spokeswoman Krista Stockman said. That's about one of every 25 students.

Allen County has a disproportionately high number of private schools, Stockman said, and she expects more to open under the new law.

"It gives churches, or really anybody who wants to open a school, a direct funding source," Stockman said.

An even greater concern is the new law's reliance on Indiana's A-F school rating system that's been criticized by lawmakers and others.

"Now they're going to that same flawed system to base vouchers on," she said.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a voucher opponent, won election last November because of voter disenchantment with many of the school reforms including the school ratings. Her office did not comment on the new law Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane said the message of the last election was to analyze the impact of the school reforms.

"Unfortunately, the supermajority of the General Assembly — and now sanctioned by Gov. Pence — have chosen to go the other way. We think that's unwise," said Lanane, D-Anderson.

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  • NOT TAX FUNDED
    Anyone who pays for private school knows they pay for school TWICE!! If those who chose private school were exempt from school funding portions of local property taxes, then you might legitimately claim that vouchers give taxes to religious organizations. As the case truly is, parents who choose religious training for children pay tuition and even with a voucher pay a portion of the cost for the public school even without using its services.
  • religion
    uh no, this country runs off the Christian beleifs, at least it used to until other "non religious" people decided to whine and throw temper tantrum about how we should change it to suite them. Just because you dotn practice our beleifs, does NOT mean you have the right to take our right to practice it away. Weve taken it out of the shcool and looky what happening? School shootings, stabbings, bullying getting worse. I for one love the fact that provate schools teach religion. I want my children to learn as much about God as possible and the fact that religion has been taken out further presses me to get them into one that still has it.
  • You do realize the Indiana Supreme Court Doesn't Have final Say, right?
    This is going to make it the Supreme Court and will eventually get overturned--tax dollars being paid to religious institutions, whether you do it directly or through a cut-out, is unconstitutional, and just because Indiana's Supreme Court doesn't get it doesn't mean that the Supreme Court of the United States will back their tortured logic up.
  • I'm not in the teacher's union
    And I say vouchers are nothing but state funding of religion. Can you argue against it without demonizing the teachers? No, of course not: Because it is, undeniably, state funding of religion. If there is ANY religious teaching tax money is inappropriate.
    • Off The Mark
      One of my two kids graduated from a Catholic High School, the other from a public high school. The people who think the "religious" schools are bad because they are faith based don't know what they're talking about. There was very little formal religious education at my son's high school and nobody, but nobody tried to "brainwash" him. This "money for religion" crap is propaganda spread by guess who? The teachers union, which has already had its mediocrity verified through low graduation rates and poor test scores. Disband the teachers union, pay the good ones very well, fire the bad ones, make teaching something college students compete to get into, problem solved.
      • Re-research
        Ok, so explain the lobbying that went on here and in other states by churches to pass these voucher bills. Was it concern for students or their own well being? It usually comes down to money, and churches are no exception.
      • Research
        You do realize the Indiana Supreme court ruled unanimously that vouchers were legal? It's main goal is not to get students to attend religious schools. It's main goal is to give parents a choice to where they send their children to be educated. There is no incentive to get them to attend a religious school.
        • I believe the vocher program good, EXCEPT!
          It sends children to Christian schools where they are taught religion. This I do not believe in---keeping religion out of schools should be a main goal. If there are other private schools that can take these children, fine-if not, it is sad. But, keep them out of Christian schools where religion is taught. You are making them captive to a given religion which is not what our tax dollars are for. This is a country of all religions and one certain one should not be taught in the schools to the general public.
          • Vouchers
            Eventually the voucher system will be overturned in court. It's main goal is for students to attend religious schools with the tax payers picking up the tab. It's been defeated in other states and it will be here too.

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