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Indiana: Three Former State Chiefs Join to Denounce Voucher Expansion Plan

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Three former state superintendents of education in Indiana wrote a joint letter opposing the Republican plan to expand vouchers.

Jennifer McCormick, Glenda Ritz and Suellen Reed Goddard released a letter criticizing the proposals for diverting funding away from traditional public school students.

House Bill 1005 seeks to expand the eligibility of who can receive a school voucher and would create the “education scholarship program” to allow some families funding for education services outside of public school.

The House is expected to take up the bill for final vote Tuesday.

Reed Goddard took part in a virtual event Monday with the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, a non-profit organization that opposes legislation to fund private school vouchers. Goddard urged people to call their elected officials to oppose the House bill and other legislation. 

“Now is not the time to divert any of our funding from public education where about 94% of our students are educated,” she said. “We are in the throes of a pandemic which challenges technology, teaching techniques, students and parents support and workforce issues.”

Goddard and others fear Gov. Eric Holcomb’s modest increase for K-12 funding in his two-year budget proposal will be erased by legislation expanded choice options if they become law.

Here is the text of the letter signed by the three former state chiefs:

In support of the 94% of Indiana students who attend public schools, we strongly oppose House Bill 1005, Senate Bill 412 and Senate Bill 413. Education Scholarship Accounts will divert adequate and equitable funding away from public school students and open the door to unacceptable practices. Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly. 

In Indiana communities, public schools have been and will continue to be the hub for vital services supporting the well-being of the whole child. Passing HB 1005, SB 412 or SB 413 would divert significant monies away from public schools, enhance the opportunity for a lack of oversight related to the intended educational purpose of such funds, further exacerbate insufficiencies tied to Indiana’s teacher compensation, and increase the risk to student growth, proficiency, and well-being. 

Indiana’s most vulnerable youth and families deserve a per-pupil funding level that promotes adequate and equitable funding. Unfortunately, the language of HB 1005 gives advantages to families with high incomes and adds disadvantages for our most vulnerable by shifting risks. HB 1005, if passed, will defeat the spirit of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act and run counter to the initial rhetoric behind Indiana’s school choice.

Even with the amendment, HB 1005 would result in 94% of Indiana’s students receiving less than the tuition support increase of $377 million over two years that Gov. Holcomb’s proposed. Teacher compensation, support staff pay, COVID-19 academic and operational-related costs, student support service demands, constantly changing graduation and accountability requirements, and K-12 workforce development efforts certainly deserve the funding necessary to serve Hoosier students. 

We firmly oppose HB 1005, SB 412 and SB 413. We firmly support the adequate and equitable funding of our Indiana’s public schools representing 94% of Hoosier students and families. 

Dr. Suellen Reed Goddard
1993-2009 Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction

Glenda Ritz
2013-2017 Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction

Dr. Jennifer McCormick
2018-2021 Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction. 

The following organizations support this letter:

Indiana Coalition for Public Education
AFT Indiana
Indiana Association of Career and Technical Education Districts (IACTED)
Indiana Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (IACTE)
Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents
Indiana Council of Administrators of Special Education (ICASE)
Indiana Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)
Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association
Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA)
Indiana Urban Schools Association

Can anyone explain why the Republicans in the legislature want to harm the public schools that enroll 94% of the children of the state? Did the Republicans familiarize themselves with the research on vouchers, which consistently finds a “significantly negative effect” on academic achievement for students who leave public schools for voucher schools? Why do they want to undermine the quality of their state’s public schools?

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