UPDATE: Teachers, others sue over school voucher law

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Teachers, school administrators and clergy sued Friday to block the nation's broadest private school voucher plan on the day it took effect, arguing that the new Indiana law violates state constitutional provisions on education and protecting taxpayers from supporting religious institutions.

The lawsuit filed in Marion County seeks a preliminary injunction on grounds that most of the 352 private schools whose students are eligible for the vouchers are affiliated with churches or other religious institutions. It also said the Indiana Constitution directs the General Assembly to educate children through a "general and uniform system of Common Schools."

"This voucher program will provide public funds to private schools that can give individual preference to students based on test scores, disabilities, wealth and personal faith. Such preferences should not be publicly funded," said lead plaintiff Teresa Meredith, a Shelbyville public school teacher and vice president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, the state's largest teachers union.

At least two of the other 11 plaintiffs also are affiliated with teachers unions. They include a public school superintendent and former state school board member, a public school principal, and Methodist and Baptist ministers.

Named as defendants are Gov. Mitch Daniels, who signed the voucher plan into law on May 5, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. Both strongly supported the voucher law as part of sweeping school changes.

Daniels issued a statement Friday saying ISTA was putting its "financial self-interest ahead of the interests of children and Indiana's low-income families."

Bennett said the lawsuit was expected.


  • Follow the money
    1) THE ISTA is upset because they're being cut out of the gravy train they've been slurping up for far too many years.

    2) The preachers are upset because they don't have schools that can get in on the vouchers - regardless of what they SAY - actions speak louder than words.

    3) If it costs, say, $5,000 / year to educate a child, then what's the beef if that same $5 grand is spent at IPS, Lighthouse Academy, or St. Roch School?

    Ms. Meredith gave herself away... "This voucher program will provide public funds to private schools that can give individual preference to students based on test scores, disabilities, wealth and personal faith. Such preferences should not be publicly funded," OK - so we don't use public funds to pay for individualized instruction to students who do poorly on test scores, have disabilities, and / or are not wealthy. So, where does she think the money should go? Probably her own ISTA salary, is my guess.

    She's contradicting her own so-called argument! Nuts!

    Dan and Trista, right on!

    Dupree, if it's "For The Children", what difference does it make to the state which school does the teaching?

    Nope, it's clearly a money grab from ISTA - and I hope the courts can see it as well...
  • To get state money, should follow public school rules
    The attack on public schools and tax payers has been great. I don't believe tax payers should be required to pay for private schools. Charter schools will get rich by receiving 90% of what would go to a public school, but not have to follow the rules. Charter schools can also expel, and have expelled, students to the public schools, but kept all the taxpayer money that would go to the public school! A great deal the governor has given his elite charter school owners.

    Before we throw money at the governor’s charter schools, let’s see how the state does at one of the 'failing schools'. Since the state can't run CPS, Welfare, Courts, etc. with efficiency...how do you think they will do running schools?

    Your take any school, private, public, charter, and force it to follow the rules that government has put on public schools and give them the same students….then through the false government measurements of student success….the school will be declared failing. The propaganda campaign to give tax payer money to charter schools has falsely labeled the public schools as failures. The true failure is government policy and worthless parents/students who do not deserve to pass.

  • Interesting
    "and equally open to all" Public schools aren't open to all. They're open to people who live in the district. Voucher schools would be open to me. Most Indiana schools are not open to me. If funding school choice is against Indiana constitution, then almost every school in Indiana is against the constitution. If "open to all" is meant in the broad sense "everyone has access to a school," then vouchers shouldn't be a problem at all.
  • Less cynical
    Why is it that the first impulse is cynicism? Here's what the Indiana constitution says:
    Article 8, Section 1. "Knowledge and learning, general diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual scientific, and agricultural improvement; and provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall without charge, and equally open to all."
    If state dollars that otherwise would go into the public tuition support formula for "a general and uniform system of common schools" are redirected to private institutions, then it seems fair to determine whether this passes constitutional muster.
    There are 11 plaintiffs, including many who are not affiliated with the ISTA. Tone down the cynicism and let the courts do what they're in place to do.
    Whatever will be, will be.
  • Who cares about the kids?
    I'm sure the vast majority of teachers out there genuinely care about their students and the progress they make in school and in life.

    The sad fact is that they are represented by a union that clearly does not. This isn't about constitutionality. It's about union leadership fearful of seeing its power diminished and trying to look relevant.

    If a kid can get a better education at another school, why not let him?

    Suing the state to try to prove to the rank and file that the union is still relevant will cost the state (those of us who pay taxes) a bundle to defend and is thus a waste of resources that could be put to much better use elsewhere.
  • Recoup legal expenses
    I hope when the state wins this case that they can recoup the expenses from defending the state's position. ISTA does not speak for me and I am also a taxpayer.
    Our kids have all graduated from the school systems this will impact so I have no direct benefit either way, but it frosts my mug to have a union spew untruths or half-truths and contend they speak for a poorly defined group like taxpayers in general.
    We'll try to say something like they would:
    Isn't this the same group under investigation for allegedly misappropriating millions of teachers' dues?
    And when this law takes effect, the schools will likely have to adjust their payrolls thus decreasing the income stream to the union. Seems like they don't want the gravy train to stop to me.

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ