Ed Eiler, former Lafayette School Corporation Superintendent, has a column in the Lafayette Journal & Courier entitled Smoke, Mirrors, and a ‘hold harmless’ ISTEP. He predicts that the General Assembly will congratulate itself on mitigating the damage caused by the poorly thought out implementation of changes to ISTEP (last year’s test won’t be used in calculating teacher compensation or for giving schools A-F grades) and won’t address the faulty premise of using standardized tests to measure school effectiveness.
The bills expand nonpublic school vouchers to high income parents, reduce accountability as there are no accountability measures built into the bills, reduce the required curriculum to reading, grammar, mathematics, science and social studies, and leave the education money to be supervised by the parent without strong fraud protection. The program would pay textbook fees for private schools children while public school parents get no help with textbooks. The program would also allow wealthier parents to divert money intended for K-12 education into their 529 college fund. The vouchers may be used at an ill-defined “participating entity” that are entitled to screen and select students. The end result is the clear majority of child in private schools would be receiving a voucher which would reduce the money available to serve the children in our public schools.
The bills have been assigned to their respective education committees, and I do not believe either has yet been scheduled for a hearing. Hopefully they will die in committee.
Public schools are, obviously, places for our children to learn. But, they are more than that — among other things, they are part of the social fabric that binds our community together. They are also hugely important economic development tools — the companies you want to have in and around your community are going to be run by people with kids. Those people will want to locate in places with strong communities and strong schools. Eroding the strength of public schools is like eating your seed corn. Short-term you might get something you like. But, long-term, you will suffer.