The Herald Bulletin published an editorial urging the Indiana General Assembly to stop the school voucher expansion. It notes the measures passed by the House and being considered by the Senate which would double the spending on voucher privatization of our educational system. Their main arguments: 1) it expands the program to subsidize private education for wealthy Hoosiers; and 2) claims that vouchers improve educational outcomes are thin and, at best, studies on the subject provide mixed support for that claim.
There are troubling aspects to the expansion trend.
About 90% of Indiana’s students attend public schools. About half of the 87,000 private school students use the Choice Scholarship program through which families receive vouchers. The House proposal would widen the program to all private school pupils, at an average of around $7,500 each.
Families currently qualify for the program based on income. Families of four making less than 300% of the federal poverty level, up to $154,000, can qualify.
The expansion would expand that to families of four who earn $220,000.
Folks who have followed this debate as it has occupied the General Assembly for the past two decades know that this plea is likely to fall on deaf ears. The original pretext for vouchers was that they would give “choice” to poor students in failing schools. As the policy choices of the General Assembly have revealed, that was never the true motive. That educational outcomes are the same or worse for students who use vouchers has not slowed down their expansion. Limitations requiring students to have actually attended public schools have been lifted. The availability of vouchers is not tied to whether a student is actually in a “failing” school district. And now income limitations are being obliterated.
The goals are and always have been: 1) subsidize religious education; 2) weaken teacher’s unions; and 3) re-direct public school funds to friends and well-wishers of pro-privatization policymakers.
Ah yes, “choice”.
Declaring victory because you’ve enabled “choice” is like declaring victory because you threw a lot of grass seed down. Sure, you skimped and you’re using a seed that doesn’t work in this climate, and it’s old seed to boot, but that doesn’t matter because all you care about is throwing done some seed. And it’s not like you’re going to fertilize or water, because why would you care about the final outcome of having a nice lawn when you don’t care about outcomes at all?
It a good thing that there are still newspapers to write editorials. The Tipton Tribune, Elwood (paperboy in the 70’s) Call Leader and the Alexander Times folded this month. I hate to think people in small towns will be getting all their news from large market TV , streaming, cable and mostly right wing radio. It leaves legislatures carte blanche to do whatever they want and practically no one will notice.