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Learning Curve

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Cut your taxes by home-schooling

Indiana's voucher bill passed the Senate this morning with a last-minute surprise; the addition of a tax deduction for parents who home-school their children.

Yes, that's right. Indiana becomes the first state in the nation to offer parents a financial incentive to keep their children out of school. Estimated cost: $3.7 million, but that's likely to be higher. As the fiscal impact statement notes, "The revenue loss could be higher to the extent taxpayers claim the deduction for dependent children in nonaccredited public schools. The number of children enrolled in such schools is unknown."

"This is a small savings for home school and private school parents," writes Vic Smith of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, "but it is a 'foot in the door' to bigger deductions after the precedent is set."

For proof, look no further than the fact that the bill also raises by 100 percent the cap on total tax credits for contributions made to private and parochial school scholarships. That "foot in the door" was approved two years ago. The new legislation increases the cap on total tax credits to $5 million a year beginning in fiscal year 2012. Estimated cost: $3.9 million.

"It's unfortunately a very bad piece of legislation," said Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville of the voucher bill. "It will go a long way in destroying public schools in the state of Indiana."

Becker, one of the few moderates left in the Senate GOP caucus, was one of nine Republicans voting no.

Meanwhile, the caucus' newest members continue to turn a deaf ear to any arguments contrary to their entrenched positions. I was told today that one northeast Indiana senator said he "didn't want any data" during testimony on an education-related bill. God forbid that facts get in the way of preconceived ideas.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at kfrancisco@jg.net.

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