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Senators ask for time to study school vouchers

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Any expansion of Indiana's already ambitious school voucher program may have to wait after senators pushed for more information Wednesday to determine the effects of the fledgling program.

Sens. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, and Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said they were concerned that too little information was available on the state's voucher program — which is barely a year old — to merit an expansion.

"This is a pretty, almost, cataclysmic change in the education system," Kenley said as the bill was debated by a Senate education committee. "I wonder if this would make sense to give it a rest for some time, say five years, and study it."

House Republicans advanced a multi-faceted plan to expand the voucher program last month that includes raising the maximum amount of each voucher to $5,500, raising the income eligibility limits for certain families and allowing children entering kindergarten to forgo a one-year stay in a public school.

On Wednesday, Rogers pressed a lobbyist for Gov. Mike Pence, who supports the expansion, what data he had to support his position. He pointed to increasing enrollment in the voucher program, but Rogers, a retired teacher, said she needed more.

"Maybe we need to wait and find out what happened to those students before increasing their numbers," she said.

The legislation also establishes a state matching program to encourage private donations to school choice groups that would then be used to send children to preschool.

But the voucher expansion has drawn the most protest, though not yet to the scale of the five-week walkout by House Democrats during the 2011 battle over right-to-work legislation. Voucher supporters and private school leaders rallied at the Statehouse last week, while public school officials and teachers packed the halls during a counter-rally Tuesday.

House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, told members of the Senate Education and Career Development Committee that vouchers were needed to give Indiana more education options.

"What we're doing is providing more choices," said Behning, author of this year's voucher bill.

Kenley grilled Behning through the opening of the hearing, saying the provision that would allow children entering kindergarten to skip the one-year stay in a public school violated an agreement that won the votes needed to pass the voucher bill two years ago.

The measure won easy approval in the House, where it was backed by House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and a Republican supermajority. But Senate Republicans, including Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, have urged caution in embracing any expansion.

Kenley, who also chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, could have a final say on the expansion this session if the bill is sent to his committee for a cost evaluation.

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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