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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. 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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