The Journal Gazette editorial board has been a long-time critic of Indiana's expansive school voucher program, based on our view that it violates the state constitution's charge “... to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.”
When the voucher law was enacted in 2011, we warned of a “questionable program Indiana could not afford.” When the cost passed $50 million a year, we pointed out more vouchers went to students who had never attended public school than students who had. When eligibility for vouchers was widely expanded under Gov. Mike Pence, we pointed out an increasing number of high-earning households were participating.
In the last academic year, the total cost of vouchers paid directly to private and parochial schools passed $1 billion. That's $1.02 billion in tax dollars diverted from public schools serving more than 90% of Indiana students. Now, as the General Assembly forges ahead with the biggest choice expansion to date, many voices are joining ours.
From the Tribune-Star, Terre Haute:
GOP lawmakers remind us who's in charge of schools
“Republicans have been hammering Indiana's public schools for more than a decade, inspired more by the applause of the national school-choice reform movement than most Hoosiers. They rationalize that 'the money should follow the student' rather than funding 'school systems' – meaning public schools where members of teachers unions work.
“This year's maneuvers are more of the same ideology that emerged more than a decade ago, prompting aggravated Hoosiers to vote former state school superintendent and reformer Tony Bennett out of office. Not surprisingly, voters can no longer do such a thing. The Legislature has since changed the superintendent's job to an appointed position, rather than an elected office.
“Because, well, they do what they want and act on behalf of the like-minded.”
From KPC Media Group, with newspapers in Auburn, Kendallville, Churubusco and six other communities:
Lawmakers need to choose schools over 'school choice'
“While 90% of Indiana students attend public school, for some reason state lawmakers seem to be much, much, much more interested in catering to the 10% who don't.
“It raises plenty of questions about who really has the ear of legislators and why? The most prominent of those questions being: Why is public money even going to private institutions in the first place?”
From the South Bend Tribune:
Failing grades for Indiana voucher expansion bills
“Legislators who propose pouring additional money into the state's voucher program at the expense of public schools short on funds during a public health crisis should turn their attention elsewhere: to the issues and needs within public schools, which 90 percent of K-12 students attend.”
Individual citizens are speaking out on the pages of Indiana newspapers, as well.
“Students with high expectations are leaving the public schools and are getting paid to do it because of vouchers,” writes Mary Kendrick in the Columbus Republic. “The essential money for public schools is shrinking when they most need it. Indiana continues to undermine the public education that is promised to all students and families by promoting 'school choice,' charter schools, and vouchers for families that already have school choice.”
“Not coincidentally, the beginning of the stagnation of wages, resulting in a teacher shortage in Indiana public schools, corresponds with the implementation of a voucher system that has seen growth in the amount of taxpayer dollars going to support children in private schools,” writes the five-member Lake Central School Board in the Times of Northwest Indiana.
In Evansville's Courier & Press, Ann Ennis writes: “The General Assembly takes money away from public schools while requiring these same schools to enroll and educate every child to state-mandated excellence. At the same time, the General Assembly gives ever more money to selective admission School Choice private/parochial schools and homeschools and applauds them for doing a great job with a relatively small number of pre-selected kids.”
Lawmakers weighing bills that would send millions of additional tax dollars to private and parochial schools might not accept our views, but should be aware the voices now come from across Indiana, with a message growing in strength.