Sen. Brian Buchanan: Parents should have choice in educational options

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Should parents be able to use state money to educate their children in any way they want?

Regardless of an individual’s career ambitions or desires, education is a necessary pillar for success.

There’s no doubt that teachers and school administrators play an extremely important role in educating Hoosier students. The positive impact a teacher can have on a young person’s life often lasts a lifetime. However, I believe parents are best situated to make educational decisions for their children. After all, it is the parents who know their children best.

In Indiana, we take an “all of the above” approach to education, not a “one size fits all.” More than a decade ago, Indiana’s legislative leaders established a policy that requires money to follow the student. This allows parents to choose which school a child attends—whether that be another public school, charter school, or in some cases, a private school.

This year, I authored Senate Bill 305, which would expand eligibility opportunities so more students can participate in the Indiana Education Scholarship Account program.

ESAs were created in 2021 by the Indiana General Assembly to offer students with disabilities the chance to be educated in an environment that best meets their needs—specifically giving parents the ability to customize their child’s education. By expanding the ESA program to allow more families to participate, we can ensure that Hoosier children have even more opportunities to be successful in school.

The ESA program is built around accountability and transparency. While the parents control how the money is used, they never actually receive it. Instead, funds flow directly from the state to approved educational providers, which are vetted by the Indiana state treasurer and Indiana Department of Education.

The debate over school choice in Indiana is often turned into a matter of whether you support traditional public schools or private education. But why can’t we support all forms of K-12 education?

My wife and I send our children to a traditional public school, and we are very happy with the education they receive. However, I fully recognize the traditional format might not be suitable for all students, which is why additional opportunities should be provided. Supporting school choice doesn’t mean we are anti-public school; it means our state supports both public schools and educational choice for families.

In the state budget approved in 2021, Indiana invested an additional $1.9 billion in K-12 education, and 94% of the new dollars were projected to go to traditional public schools. Further, I strongly believe our public schools will always educate the vast majority of young Hoosiers.

Living in an ever-changing, fast-paced world, we must continue to adapt to different educational opportunities. That’s why I believe Indiana should continue to fully support both traditional and non-traditional educational opportunities, so parents can make the best choice for their children’s education.•


Buchanan, a Republican, represents Senate District 7, which includes Clinton and portions of Boone, Hendricks and Montgomery counties. Send comments to

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4 thoughts on “Sen. Brian Buchanan: Parents should have choice in educational options

  1. I want to see the State of Indiana make school choice available to ALL Hoosier families. It’s our money and we should be able to spend it on accredited schools of our choice. Competition is a good thing and will make all schools better.

    1. Competition is a fine concept. In competition you keep score and you reward winners and the losers know they’ve lost.

      How do we do that in Indiana? Do we penalize bad schools and shut them down? Not hardly. You can fail for a good long time and turn out a lot of poorly educated students before you are shut down. The cost of that, of course, falls on all the rest of us.

      Do we take the practices from the highest achieving schools and spread them around? Nope.

      Do we make sure that only serious players can get into the game? No, we have a system that encourages lots of organizations to charter schools … and doesn’t hold them accountable when they fail in the middle of the year.

      Do we even ask the players in the game to be accountable for the state funding they receive? Of course not. There’s a giant push to make everyone accountable for how they spend government money … but that doesn’t apply to charter schools, just public schools.

      If IPS mis-spent $860 the legislature would swoop in to shut them down. A virtual charter school absconds with $86 million and the legislature hasn’t changed one policy to prevent a repeat.

      If competition made things better, why are the educational outcomes in Indiana getting worse as more and more kids go to charter and private schools?

    2. State after state with more expansive “school choice” show falling education levels. Maybe the free market does not work for school choice. Are you willing to bet Indiana’s future despite the evidence?

  2. Top Indiana senator rebukes voucher school program in new letter

    “I would advise families looking at voucher schools to be aware that they are on their own at this point and time. They should strongly consider an alternative to the blemished and blatantly flawed procedures of accountability when choosing a school for their child,” Sen. Ryan Mishler said in a letter published Friday. “We need to hold the schools to the same high level of accountability they expect from the students and their parents.”