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Limited school voucher expansion approved by Senate

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The Indiana Senate approved a scaled-back expansion of the state's voucher program Wednesday, setting the stage for negotiations with House Republicans, who are pushing for a broader growth of the divisive program.

The Senate voted 27-23 for the expansion, with 10 Republicans joining the chamber's 13 Democrats in opposing the measure. The measure will now head to a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators as the Legislature enters the final weeks of the 2013 session.

Opponents characterized the Senate plan as a sweeping expansion of the state's young voucher program, but supporters called the proposal modest. Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, said he and many other voucher supporters accepted some limits in order to win approval.

"It's a not a substantial expansion of vouchers, like it came over from the House," Yoder said. "I think this is a fair compromise."

The Senate proposal would allow siblings of students already receiving vouchers to qualify for the program, raise the value of each voucher by $200 and eliminate a one-year waiting period in public schools for students who attend "failing" schools.

Senate Democrats say Indiana's public schools have been under siege since the voucher program was first approved two years ago.

"Who is speaking for those 1 million-plus kids in the state public schools?" said Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, a former teacher. "All I hear is: 'The schools are failures. The kids are failures. The teachers are failures.'"

A series of amendments crafted by Democrats to either delay the expansion, by sending it to a study committee, or regulate private schools similar to how public schools are managed were defeated Tuesday.

House leaders, including Speaker Brian Bosma and Education Chairman Bob Behning, both Indianapolis Republicans, had envisioned a broader expansion. The House proposal calls for raising the maximum amount of each voucher from $4,500 to $6,500, eliminating the one-year waiting period for all students and raising the maximum amount a family could earn before qualifying for vouchers.

But some Senate Republicans, including Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, have said they were concerned the expansion would eat away at the state budget and also violate a deal struck in 2011 that gave public schools the first shot at educating children before they qualified for vouchers.

Gov. Mike Pence threw his support behind the House plan, which includes many of the changes he campaigned for last year, and said last week he will continue lobbying for a broader expansion.

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  1. Cramer agrees...says don't buy it and sell it if you own it! Their "pay to play" cost is this issue. As long as they charge customers, they never will attain the critical mass needed to be a successful on company...Jim Cramer quote.

  2. My responses to some of the comments would include the following: 1. Our offer which included the forgiveness of debt (this is an immediate forgiveness and is not "spread over many years")represents debt that due to a reduction of interest rates in the economy arguably represents consideration together with the cash component of our offer that exceeds the $2.1 million apparently offered by another party. 2. The previous $2.1 million cash offer that was turned down by the CRC would have netted the CRC substantially less than $2.1 million. As a result even in hindsight the CRC was wise in turning down that offer. 3. With regard to "concerned Carmelite's" discussion of the previous financing Pedcor gave up $16.5 million in City debt in addition to the conveyance of the garage (appraised at $13 million)in exchange for the $22.5 million cash and debt obligations. The local media never discussed the $16.5 million in debt that we gave up which would show that we gave $29.5 million in value for the $23.5 million. 4.Pedcor would have been much happier if Brian was still operating his Deli and only made this offer as we believe that we can redevelop the building into something that will be better for the City and City Center where both Pedcor the citizens of Carmel have a large investment. Bruce Cordingley, President, Pedcor

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  4. WGN actually is two channels: 1. WGN Chicago, seen only in Chicago (and parts of Canada) - this station is one of the flagship CW affiliates. 2. WGN America - a nationwide cable channel that doesn't carry any CW programming, and doesn't have local affiliates. (In addition, as WGN is owned by Tribune, just like WTTV, WTTK, and WXIN, I can't imagine they would do anything to help WISH.) In Indianapolis, CW programming is already seen on WTTV 4 and WTTK 29, and when CBS takes over those stations' main channels, the CW will move to a sub channel, such as 4.2 or 4.3 and 29.2 or 29.3. TBS is only a cable channel these days and does not affiliate with local stations. WISH could move the MyNetwork affiliation from WNDY 23 to WISH 8, but I am beginning to think they may prefer to put together their own lineup of syndicated programming instead. While much of it would be "reruns" from broadcast or cable, that's pretty much what the MyNetwork does these days anyway. So since WISH has the choice, they may want to customize their lineup by choosing programs that they feel will garner better ratings in this market.

  5. The Pedcor debt is from the CRC paying ~$23M for the Pedcor's parking garage at City Center that is apprased at $13M. Why did we pay over the top money for a private businesses parking? What did we get out of it? Pedcor got free parking for their apartment and business tenants. Pedcor now gets another building for free that taxpayers have ~$3M tied up in. This is NOT a win win for taxpayers. It is just a win for Pedcor who contributes heavily to the Friends of Jim Brainard. The campaign reports are on the Hamilton County website. http://www2.hamiltoncounty.in.gov/publicdocs/Campaign%20Finance%20Images/defaultfiles.asp?ARG1=Campaign Finance Images&ARG2=/Brainard, Jim

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