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Senate panel approves diluted voucher expansion

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The Indiana Senate Education Committee is signing off on a limited expansion of school vouchers one day after the state's highest court deemed vouchers constitutional.

The Senate panel rewrote House voucher expansion legislation to allow siblings of voucher school students to qualify for the program. It also would qualify students who would otherwise attend a failing public school for a voucher without having to spend the one-year period in public schools currently required by law.

"We're placing a high value on that arrangement and the family's right to make that choice," said Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, who drafted the amendment.

The new bill marks something of a compromise between voucher supporters and opponents.

"I appreciate the lipstick, I will support the lipstick and wait for the pig," said Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, a voucher opponent. She voted for Kenley's amendment, but then voted against the amended bill.

House authors have been pushing to eliminate a one-year waiting period in public schools before students can qualify for vouchers. The compromise was designed to give public schools the "first shot" at a student, which ultimately won the votes needed to pass Indiana's sweeping 2011 voucher law.

The Senate version also limits how much more would be allocated for each voucher. The House bill sought to raise the cap from $4,500 per student to $5,500 in the next two years. The Senate measure would raise the cap to $4,700.

The panel also voted Wednesday to study preschool vouchers rather than spend $7 million annually on a pilot preschool program sought by House Republicans. Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, who wrote the amendment, said legislative analysts determined Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration already had enough money to pay for preschool vouchers.

"FSSA can use existing dollars if they want to fund scholarships for low-income children, so this empowers them to do that," he said.

The changes set up a battle between House and Senate negotiators and are highly unlikely to remain the final versions lawmakers approve before leaving town at the end of April.

The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously upheld Indiana's sweeping charter school law on Tuesday, determining the measure did not amount to the state funding religious institutions, as opponents have argued.

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  1. The east side does have potential...and I have always thought Washington Scare should become an outlet mall. Anyone remember how popular Eastgate was? Well, Indy has no outlet malls, we have to go to Edinburgh for the deep discounts and I don't understand why. Jim is right. We need a few good eastsiders interested in actually making some noise and trying to change the commerce, culture and stereotypes of the East side. Irvington is very progressive and making great strides, why can't the far east side ride on their coat tails to make some changes?

  2. Boston.com has an article from 2010 where they talk about how Interactions moved to Massachusetts in the year prior. http://www.boston.com/business/technology/innoeco/2010/07/interactions_banks_63_million.html The article includes a link back to that Inside Indiana Business press release I linked to earlier, snarkily noting, "Guess this 2006 plan to create 200-plus new jobs in Indiana didn't exactly work out."

  3. I live on the east side and I have read all your comments. a local paper just did an article on Washington square mall with just as many comments and concerns. I am not sure if they are still around, but there was an east side coalition with good intentions to do good things on the east side. And there is a facebook post that called my eastside indy with many old members of the eastside who voice concerns about the east side of the city. We need to come together and not just complain and moan, but come up with actual concrete solutions, because what Dal said is very very true- the eastside could be a goldmine in the right hands. But if anyone is going damn, and change things, it is us eastside residents

  4. Please go back re-read your economics text book and the fine print on the February 2014 CBO report. A minimum wage increase has never resulted in a net job loss...

  5. The GOP at the Statehouse is more interested in PR to keep their majority, than using it to get anything good actually done. The State continues its downward spiral.

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