TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - The Indiana House has passed a bill that would expand the school voucher program. This essentially gives money to parents to send their kids to private schools in some cases. However, it’s drawing controversy.
There’s been contentious debate surrounding the School Choice expansion bill (House Bill 1005). News 10 spoke with both the Indiana Non Public Education Association (INPEA) and the Vigo County School Corporation’s Teachers Association to look at both sides of the debate.
First, the bill includes several parts that deal with school vouchers, but the most controversial appears to involve funding and exactly where it goes.
Basically, it would establish Indiana’s first educational savings account program. This focuses on students with special needs, foster children, and students from military families. Rather than converting the funding directly to a voucher, it goes into a savings account where a parent has more control over how funds are spent. It could be for private school tuition or educational services such as tutors.
John Elcesser is the Executive Director for the INPEA. He says this program provides more opportunities for students and families. Meanwhile, Jodie Buckallew is a teacher and a member of the Vigo County Teacher’s Union. She contends that 93% of all K-12 students in Indiana attend public schools. She says this is taking away much needed funding for public schools which is determined by enrollment.
“This program has changed lives,” Elcesser said, “Its provided opportunities for families who never thought they would have a choice in terms of where they can educate their children.”
“If we look at vouchers and more students leaving our corporation, that reduces the funding that it takes to fully fund our public schools and to really look out for the future learning conditions of our students,” Buckallew contended, “Ultimately, when we defund public education, we are defunding 93% of students across the State of Indiana.”
“No matter whom the child is or what their educational interests or needs are, they can find the school that’s the right fit for them,” Elcesser continued, “Personally, we don’t care if that’s in public, private, or charter—as long as it’s a place where a student can be successful. That’s why we support choice because it provides options for families who typically would not be able to afford them.”
Elcesser says he respects those who oppose this proposed legislation, but he believes rather than this be a funding issue; it should be about the students.
“Too often, I believe, the education debate comes down to dollars and cents,” Elcesser concluded, “But, to me what’s most important in education is, are kids getting a quality education and an opportunity to be successful?”
The bill is on its way to the State Senate. News 10 will keep you updated on its progress moving forward.