Luke Messer, former Republican state lawmaker and now executive director of School Choice Indiana, was asked by the Indiana Department of Education to respond to questions raised by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education. The coalition pointed out that just 58 percent of the funds contributed for a tax credit to the "Opportunity Scholarship" program approved in 2009 were awarded to qualified students in 2009-10. Here is Messer's response:
"Bottom line is this… the tax credit program began in January of 2010 and the first reporting period was for dollars raised from January 2010 through June of 2010. During that period the Indiana Choice Charitable Trust raised a little more than $260,000. Given the late start of the program as mandated by Indiana law (Jan-June of 2010), it was a challenge to go back and retroactively provide any scholarships for the 2009-2010 year. However, we did manage to provide more than $150,000 in scholarships that applied to 2009-2010. The remaining scholarships were provided for the 2010-2011 school year.
"We absolutely comply with the state requirement that 90% of dollars raised under the tax credit be spent directly on scholarships. Nothing in Indiana law required that dollars raised in the first half of 2010 be spent on scholarships for 2009-2010. In fact, given the timing of when the program began, January 2010, such a requirement would have been impractical."
Messer is also executive director of the Educational Choice Charitable Trust, one of the four scholarship-granting programs.
State law requires an annual audit of the program.
On the subject of vouchers, a Journal Gazette editorial on Jan. 30 followed the money trail from lawmakers to voucher supporters. The Bloomington-based School Matters blog picks up the trail and pushes further, finding even more out-of-state bucks flowing to the cause.
A letter writer this week complained that the Jan. 30 editorial amounted to "lying" because it left out the contributions the teachers' unions gave to Democrats to advance their agenda. I'm not sure it will surprise any readers that Indiana public school teachers give money to their union's political action committee to support candidates supportive of public education. I do think they would find it surprising that wealthy out-of-state contributors have such an interest in Indiana education policy.