The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, February 16, 2021 1:00 am

General assembly

Education groups opposed to budget

Ex-state superintendents also against voucher funds

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Education officials from around the state are pushing back on a proposed $378 million in new K-12 tuition support – saying $144 million of the new money goes to private schools via vouchers.

That means about 38% of Indiana's new funding would be designated to private school education. The remaining 62% would be earmarked for public schools, which educate 95% of students.

The Indiana School Boards Association analyzed the proposed school funding formula in the House Republican budget.

Three things are contributing to the growth in funding for private school children, according to the group's analysis.

The first is an expansion of eligibility to receive a voucher and increase in the amount of the voucher; expected enrollment growth in that program over the next two years; and new Education Scholarship Accounts.

Three former superintendents of public instruction also sent a letter to state legislators opposing the move.

“In Indiana communities, public schools have been and will continue to be the hub for vital services supporting the well-being of the whole child,” the letter from Suellen Reed Goddard, Glenda Ritz and Jennifer McCormick said.

Passing new legislation “would divert significant monies away from public schools, enhance the opportunity for a lack of oversight related to the intended educational purpose of such funds, further exacerbate insufficiencies tied to Indiana's teacher compensation, and increase the risk to student growth, proficiency, and well-being,” the letter said.

House Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, said his budget funds students – not systems or school buildings. When looking at the final numbers, he said, 94% of the overall K-12 funding goes to public schools.

So the breakdown is in line with the percentage of public school students, he added. 

Several groups opposing the voucher legislation, House Bill 1005, held a virtual opposition rally Monday. They were the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, the Indiana American Federation of Teachers, the Indiana Council of Administrators of Special Education and the Indiana Parent-Teacher Association. 

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