In case you’re not familiar with the lingo, the term “school choice” basically translates out to “divert more money away from public schools.”
The annual attack has spurred local school districts this year including Lakeland and Fremont among others to formally adopt resolutions and send letters to Indianapolis in opposition of the new measures.
House Bill 1005, Senate Bill 412 and Senate Bill 413 all do slightly different things, but in the end are all similar in that they would use more than $200 million in state public education money to fund tuition to private or parochial schools. The money even could be used to fund unaccredited, unsupervised homeschool programs.
There have also been efforts to defund some vocational programs like culinary arts and cosmetology that the state now feels are less valuable compared to industrial vocations like welding.
Meanwhile, Hoosier lawmakers continue to hamstring public schools with burdensome standardized testing requirements that have no educational value for use in an evaluation system that every school writes off as essentially useless in gauging what their students know or don’t know.
Earlier this year, the state’s Teacher Compensation Commission released a package of 37 recommendations on how to increase funding to public schools and improve teacher pay from one of the worst in the Midwest to something that would make teachers maybe consider staying in the profession instead of leaving after a few years of underpay and under-appreciation.
But what the state’s Republican supermajority has heard from the years of protest by teachers, the recommendations from the state teacher compensation board and ongoing, constant, consistent complaints from school districts about the challenges and issues they’re facing apparently has been “put more money in vouchers.”
Maybe every day is opposite day at the Statehouse?
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?
Every lawmaker will tell you education is critically important and today’s youth are tomorrow’s workforce, yet at the same time they seem to actively work to undermine the public education system every year.
It should surprise no one that Indiana was recently ranked 40th in the nation for educational attainment and that the state ranks toward the bottom nationally in terms of median household income, which is strongly correlated with quality and breadth of education.
Those failing grades aren’t going to improve by funneling money away from the schools that educate the vast majority of students to private schools that the vast majority of Hoosier families can’t afford even with the stacks of bills lawmakers keep throwing them.
Here’s a novel suggestion: Instead of pushing out the annual “school choice” bills cooked up by who knows who, we suggest lawmakers take a unique approach — actually listen to what public school leaders are telling you.
A good start would be scrapping the school choice bills on the table this year.
OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Dave Kurtz, Grace Housholder, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial board.
We welcome readers’ comments.