Indiana

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Updated: Will Indiana's School Voucher Program Go Forward?

Marion County

Marion County Court Judge Michael D. Keele.

UPDATE: A Marion County judge will decide by the beginning of next week whether Indiana’s school voucher program will move forward during a legal challenge.

Judge Michael D. Keele said he’d have his decision early next week after attorneys file additional briefs by the end of business tomorrow.

The voucher program currently has 2,500 low-income students enrolled, state superintendent Tony Bennett said Thursday, giving families state money for tuition at private and parochial schools of their choice. At issue in the suit: Does the voucher program violate separation of church and state by directly funding religious institutions?

Backing the plaintiffs in the suit seeking to shut down the program is the Indiana State Teachers Association. President Nate Schnellenberger told Indiana Public Broadcasting the voucher program represents an overreaching by Republican lawmakers and state superintendent Tony Bennett.

“We certainly respect [parents'] right to send them to a private school, but we do not think there should be a tax subsidy, in essence, provided for them to do that,” Schnellenberger said.

State Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), chairman of the House Education Committee and principal author of the bill, said the bill was designed to pass muster with the legal system.

“We tried to create it more in a model of something that had been done here in Indiana so that we felt that if it would be challenged there was historical perspective that would show that it had already been done and not been found to be unconstitutional and sustain any type of lawsuit,” Behning said.

Indiana Public Broadcasting statehouse reporter Brandon Smith contributed reporting to this post.

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