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Rep. Ellington Makes False Claim About School Transfers In Defense Of Voucher Expansion

Jeff Ellington

Ellington said he supports voucher expansion because he sees both public-public and public-private school transfers as larger school choice matters. (Brock Turner, WFIU/WTIU News)

In a letter to a constituent last week, State Rep. Jeff Ellington (R-Bloomington) made a false claim about school choice scholarships while defending their expansion in HB 1005.   

Ellington wrote, "In our district, many students use the vouchers to transfer from one public school to another. An example of this would be if they want to play football, but their current school does not have it, they can use the voucher to transfer to another public school that does have the program."  

Actually, school choice scholarships are intended for tuition at an accredited nonpublic school or for education-related expenses. A student transferring between two public schools would not be eligible for the voucher.   

Holly Lawson is deputy director of communications for the Indiana Department of Education. She said students would not be able to use a Choice Scholarship to attend a public school inside or outside their local district.  

Lawson said the scholarships are available based on eight eligibility tracks, along with income requirements. Eligible students would then use the scholarship at a participating choice school in place of tuition.   

As for public-to-public transfers, under IC 20-26-11-5 and 6, a public school outside a student’s district may elect to charge transfer tuition if the transfer takes place before September and February count dates. Lawson said a Choice Scholarship would not cover this expense. She said these decisions are made at the district level.  

When asked to clarify his statement on vouchers, Ellington removed both mentions of the word and replaced its first appearance with “public school transfers” in an email to WFIU.   

Ellington said he supports voucher expansion because he sees both public-public and public-private school transfers as the same decision, despite the financial differences. He said both are larger matters of school choice.  

“The decision for a parent to go from public to public is the same decision that parents choose to go from public to voucher- to private school,” Ellington said.   

While “School choice matters” is the first sentence of HB 1005, the bill specifically aims to increase voucher income eligibility and create an additional savings account program for students to attend nonpublic schools. Public school transfers are not mentioned.    

The proposed “education scholarship account” program would provide state funding to special education and foster children, as well as military families.   

House Education Committee Chair Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis) authored the bill and did not respond to a request for comment.   

The Indiana House of Representatives passed HB 1005 last month 61-38, with Ellington voting in favor. 

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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