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School Voucher Expansion Bill Awaits Pence’s Signature

Our lady classroom

Photo: Kyle Stokes/StateImpact Indiana

Students participate in a classroom activity at Our Lady of Hungary, a voucher-accepting Catholic school in South Bend.

Expansion of the state’s school voucher program is headed to Governor Mike Pence. The General Assembly passed the measure late Friday. But the expansion isn’t nearly as broad as many, including Pence, wanted.

The House originally approved voucher expansion eliminating the requirement that recipients attend a public school for one year beyond kindergarten. But the Senate balked at such a broad expansion. The final version requires students to attend at least a public kindergarten before receiving a voucher. It does allow students to skip public school entirely if their public school receives a failing grade from the state.

It’s that provision that Indianapolis Democratic Representative Ed DeLaney says will hurt public school students in districts like his:

“Why would IPS fix up a failing school? They won’t get the kids back,” Delaney says. What’s the incentive for IPS to improve? There is none!”

House Ways and Means Chair Tim Brown says the budget sets aside money to protect public school funding in case the voucher program expands significantly:

“And so we want to protect the foundation,” Brown says. “We have done that, we’ve listened, we have answered the call to protect education.”

The legislature also approved a bill proponents say halts implementation of the Common Core, a set of nationally-developed academic standards currently adopted by 45 states. The legislature and Department of Education will study the Common Core before the State Board of Education develops a new set of standards by next year.

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