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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. 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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