The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, April 20, 2021 1:00 am

Scholarships with little accountability a disservice

Suellen Reed Goddard, Glenda Ritz and Jennifer McCormick

It is confounding to us as former state superintendents of public instruction that legislators do not seem to value accountability.

In this and past legislative sessions, legislators are eager to divert more of taxpayers' hard-earned dollars to various forms of private school vouchers with little accountability.

Does the curriculum at these schools meet standards? Do the schools discriminate? Are students taught by licensed and experienced teachers? Are owners reaping unreasonable profits? Are their enrollments accurate?

Legislators who support privatization do not seem to care, nor do they prioritize acting upon the dismal answers to these questions. We are particularly concerned about the proposed private school Education Scholarship Accounts for students with special needs.

Since similar accounts in other states that have implemented such programs have been subject to fraud; where is the accountability for how Indiana Education Scholarship Account funds will be spent? How will parents know the services they select will meet their child's needs? What happens when the account amount is not adequate to pay for the full range of services needed by children with severe disabilities?

Even in the best of circumstances, Education Scholarship Accounts will create confusion about who is responsible for services and payments.

Not only are we concerned that our most vulnerable students will not receive or even be offered the free and appropriate educational opportunities to prosper in adulthood, we are worried that many students with disabilities and their families will not be told they lose civil rights and aligned services by taking the Education Scholarship Account.

Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly.

We continue to oppose expanding private school voucher eligibility and enacting private school Education Scholarship Accounts because they divert adequate and equitable funding away from public school students and enhance opportunities for financial mismanagement.

Even with multiple choice options, 94% of students choose to attend a public school. Public schools have been and will continue to be the hub of their communities.

We ask legislators to concentrate Indiana's K-12 education funding where the vast majority of our students learn. 

Suellen Reed Goddard, top, was Indiana superintendent of public instruction from 1993-2009. Glenda Ritz, center, was superintendent from 2013-17. Jennifer McCormick was superintendent from 2018-21.

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