Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Judge Says Indiana's Voucher Program Is Constitutional, Opponents Vow To Appeal

    Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

    Governor Mitch Daniels addresses a class at Our Lady of Hungary Catholic School in South Bend, where enrollment has skyrocketed due to the state's private and parochial school voucher program, during a visit in December.

    A Marion County judge rejected a legal challenge Friday to Indiana’s expansive private school voucher program, as the Associated Press reports:

    Marion Superior Court Judge Michael Keele said the School Choice Scholarship program doesn’t violate the state constitution because the state isn’t directly funding parochial schools. Instead, it gives scholarship vouchers to parents, who can choose where to use them…

    Indiana State Teachers Association President Nate Schnellenberger says opponents will appeal today’s ruling.

    In a prepared statement, attorney general Greg Zoeller said:

    The legislation followed the Indiana Constitution in creating broader educational options for Hoosier children since the scholarship funding is directed to students’ families, not to private schools. The court agreed that the Choice Scholarship Program does not violate anyone’s rights and we are pleased with the thoughtful analysis.

    Indiana Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma also praised the ruling in a press release:

    The court clearly understood the goal that so many House Republicans fought so hard for which is to give families that want and need school choice when it comes to their child’s education. Today’s order will hopefully put to rest further legal challenges.

    Judge Keele ruled in August that the voucher program would be allowed to continue while the lawsuit went forward.

    This latest ruling allows the 3,919 students enrolled in the voucher program will be allowed to continue to use state funds to pursue other educational options.

    Parent Jeanetta White told StateImpact in September she pulled her four adopted kids out of South Bend public schools and enrolled them in parochial school with the help of Indiana’s new voucher program because she was fed up with the public schools’ performance.

    “Why are parents taking kids out of public schools? There has to be something wrong,” White, 54, posited.

    But Teresa Meredith, a vice president at the Indiana State Teachers Association and plaintiff in the voucher suit, argues the voucher program diverts funds away from public education, to the detriment of students with special needs.

    “That money should be put into the public schools to help make sure that those children most at risk, to make sure their needs are met so they can be successful,” Meredith told StateImpact in September.


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