04/25/11 After much debate among Indiana legislators, school administrators, teachers, school board members and the public concerning allowing parents to use state vouchers to enroll their children in private schools, the matter finally came to a vote on Thursday. The Republican-controlled state Senate voted 28-22 in favor of instituting vouchers for parents who fall within the guidelines.
HB 1003 now awaits final approval from the Indiana House of Representatives.
The vouchers would be funded out of the same pot of money used to fund public schools. The bill creates a needs-based voucher program for qualifying parents to send their children to participating non-public schools throughout the state.
After the vote as announced on April 21, Tony Bennett, superintendent of public instruction said, “Members of Indiana’s House of Representatives took a courageous step today to offer more Hoosier students high quality educational options—options that suit their individual needs. This bold move is a critical piece of our comprehensive efforts to transform the current culture in our schools. I hope today’s action on HB 1003 is a positive indication of even more good things to come for Indiana’s students.”
Bennett added, “A great education should not be an option available only to a privileged few but rather a fundamental right for all Americans.” “In Indiana, we are removing barriers to success and opportunity for students who have been denied equitable access for far too long.”
Plymouth Schools Superintendent Daniel Tyree believes the vote from the House will be similar to the Senate’s. Tyree said, “Everything else has passed,” He added, “It hasn’t been a secret that the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) feels this is important.” Tyree said most of the members of the House and Senate included in their campaigns that they wanted to give more choices to parents in choosing the schools their children attend.”
Tyree said he does have some philosophical issues with giving state tuition assistance dollars to private schools. He said, “They don’t have to follow the same accountability standards as public schools.”
However, Tyree said whatever the final decision puts in force will not affect the way that Plymouth Schools operate. Tyree said, “It’s not going to be the end of the world. Worse things could happen.”
Following is an explanation put forth by the IDOE showing how the vouchers could be obtained: “HB 1003 provides two tiers of means-tested opportunity scholarships that can be used to offset tuition costs at non-public schools.
A student from a household whose annual income qualifies for the federal free or reduced lunch program may receive an opportunity scholarship worth 90 percent of the state per-student tuition support from the school corporation in which the student lives. For a qualifying family of four, this equals an income of approximately S41,000. A student is eligible to receive 50 percent of his or her state per-student tuition support if the family’s total income does not exceed 150 percent of the amount required to qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. This would qualify a family of four with an income of approximately $61,000.”
Students will still be required to attend public school first. The IDOE included the following as well: “To receive an opportunity scholarship, a student must attend a public school for two semesters prior to enrolling in the scholarship program and moving to a non-government school. The maximum scholarship amount is $4,500 for students in grades 1-8. The number of participating students is initially capped at 7,500 for the 2011-2012 school year and 15,000 for the 2012-2013 school year. Starting in the 2013-2014 school year, all students who qualify may participate.”
Carol Anders Correspondent