Democrats Say Education Bill Is Unconstitutional

House Democrats say they want to be satisfied some Republican legislation is not unconstitutional before they return to the Statehouse from Illinois.

Some Indiana House Democrats say they want to be satisfied some Republican legislation is not unconstitutional before they return to the Statehouse from Illinois.

Bloomington Representative Matt Pierce worries a bill authorizing school vouchers could violate the state’s constitution or cause financial hurdles for parents.

“The constitutional issue is kind of up in the air,” he said, “it might be if you give the money directly to the parents that maybe that will satisfy the state constitution’s prohibition against state money going directly to religious institutions. On the other hand, you might create another problem, because I think if that money goes directly to the parents, the federal internal revenue service might count that as income.”

But Columbus Republican Milo Smith does not see the funding of private schools through state funding as unconstitutional.

“If you look at our constitution,” he said, “and I read it again last week, there’s no such thing as public school in the constitution, it’s a common school, and a common school is defined as a religious school as well.”

Pierce sees the voucher program as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the Democrat’s return.

“The biggest, most problematic education bill,” he said, “and there are a lot of them out there [is] the voucher bill. This proposal, to take tax payer money that would normally go to a public school, take it away from the public school and give it to a private school or religious school.”

Smith though, feels the money should follow the child.

“If I decide to put my kids in a private school, a faith based school,” he said, “that ought to be my choice, and some of the money I pay in taxes in general ought to flow to that.”

According to Minority Leader Pat Bauer, the Republican legislation would take $80 million away from public schools the first year, and $160 million the second year.

Democrats say they want concessions on a package of several bills before returning to the House floor.

Dan Goldblatt

Dan Goldblatt is the Multi-media Producer for WFIU/WTIU News. A graduate of Indiana University, he studied journalism and anthropology. He currently lives in Bloomington with his cat, June Carter.

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