Indiana

Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

What's Next For Indiana's Voucher Program After State Supreme Court Ruling

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, asks a question during a meeting of Indiana's Senate Education Committee in January 2012.

Last week a Republican lawmaker questioned whether it was wise to proceed with a proposal to expand the state’s voucher program given that the Indiana Supreme Court hadn’t ruled on the current law.

Now, that ruling is in — the state’s highest court ruled Tuesday the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program passes constitutional muster.

Against that backdrop, a panel of state lawmakers could give initial approval to a proposal to expand the state’s voucher program Wednesday. From Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Stan Jastrzebski:

With the constitutionality of vouchers decided, the Senate Education Committee Wednesday turns its attention to a House bill which would loosen requirements for families seeking vouchers.  Terry Spradlin, the education policy director at Indiana University’s Center for Education and Evaluation Policy, says the hearing could serve as a crystal ball for vouchers.

“So again the impetus is back on the legislature to define the scope and scale of the program,” Spradlin says. “And so that is being discussed and that will be determined – perhaps as early as [Wednesday]. Certainly it will be a foretelling of what will happen this session what happens with that bill.”

Spradlin says influential lawmakers such as Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, have expressed skepticism about further expansion of the plan and its long-term costs.

School choice advocate Robert Enlow, who heads the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, says Tuesday’s ruling settles the question of Indiana voucher constitutionality moving forward.

“We now know the answer to whether we should wait on this program for the court to rule because they have,” says Enlow.

But Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, who with Kenley questioned the need to expand the voucher program at last week’s hearing, says the reality now is the legislature is funding three school systems — public schools, charter schools and private schools through the voucher program.

“I think what we need to do is direct our energies towards getting enough dollars for all students that we have taken on responsibility for,” she told Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Brandon Smith.

For her part, Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz says she’s disappointed the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the voucher program.

“As state superintendent, I will follow the court’s ruling and faithfully administer Indiana’s voucher program,” she said in a statement. “However, I personally believe that public dollars should go to public schools, and I encourage Hoosiers to send that message to their representatives in the statehouse.”

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