Vic’s Statehouse Notes #354 Voucher expansion & ESAs are rolled into budget bill
They put ESA’s in the House budget. Now ESA’s have to be kept out of the Senate budget!
ESA’s, the radical plan to give taxpayer money directly to home school parents – with no accountability, no check on extremists and no criminal background checks– were added to the House budget, House Bill 1001.
After passing House Bill 1005 to create ESA’s (Education Scholarship Accounts) and to expand private school vouchers, the supermajority Republican leadership added the same language to the budget bill.
This is a well known maneuver to prop up a controversial and increasingly unpopular proposal such as Education Scholarship Accounts. The leadership figures that all members of the caucus will vote for the budget bill so that those who support public education within Republican ranks can not derail the radical ESA plan.
The proposals in HB 1005 lost popularity in the Senate in the first half of the session. Senate bills 412 and 413 started out as broad expansions of ESA’s and vouchers similar to HB 1005 but ended up expanding only one element: adding foster students to the list of those eligible for Choice Scholarships. School boards all over Indiana, totaling 106 to date, passed resolutions opposing ESA’s and voucher expansion, strongly boosting the campaign against them.
Now, public school advocates must send messages to Senators not only to oppose House Bill 1005 but also to keep ESA’s out of the Senate budget that is now being written. A hearing on the Senate K-12 school funding budget will be held by the School Funding Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, March 25, scheduled for 15 minutes after adjournment of the Senate floor session. Send emails to the list below before that hearing to have your voices heard.
The Damage of ESA’s
Horrendous damage to public education in Indiana will be done by letting the radical concept of Education Scholarship Accounts take root, following the steps laid out by Milton Friedman, the well known economist, who wanted to end public education and privatize education by giving tax money directly to parents.
The current proposal in the budget would give money to special education students, students with active military parents, and foster students. Approximately one out of six Hoosier students would be eligible for this privatization plan, according to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.
What is so horrendous about ESA’s?
- No standards. What hypocrisy for the General Assembly to hold students in public schools to high standards with testing and school letter grades while setting no standards at all for ESA parent grants! Under this radical proposal, all a parent needs to do to get the money (approx. $7000) that normally goes to schools is to fill out an online application in which the parent “must agree that” they “will use part of the money” for the “student’s study in the subject of reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies, or science” or the student’s “individualized education program”. These quotes are directly from the proposed budget bill, HB 1001 (p. 138). That’s all! It’s a giveaway of your tax dollars with no requirements and no accountability. Tell Senators this is wrong.
- No protection from extremism. In an era when extremist ideology is a major concern, there is no protection in this ESA proposal from funding home schools run by extremist parents using your tax dollars. This is a clear threat to our democracy, funded by you, the taxpayer. This is outrageous. Tell Senators this must not stand.
- No criminal background checks. While teachers, administrators and even school volunteers must pass criminal background checks to work with students, parents of eligible students can get approximately $7000 of taxpayer money for their home school with no criminal background check regarding previous child abuse, neglect or fraud charges. Sponsors of the ESA bill blindly trust tax money to parents that they would never trust to school officials without audits. A 2017 investigation of ESA’s in Florida by the Orlando Sentinel entitled “Schools without Rules” revealed rampant fraud scandals. Tell Senators that Indiana must not go down this scandal-filled road.
Governor Holcomb said in his State of the State address that parents “deserve to have options.” Then he said “at the same time, those options shouldn’t come at the expense of the public school system, which educates 90% of Hoosier children.” If he is serious about this statement, he will oppose putting ESA’s and voucher expansion in the budget bill because
- the voucher expansion section of the bill undermines the funding available to public schools by $65 million and
- the Education Savings Account section of the bill incentivizes parents to abandon the public schools and undermines the central purpose of public education to teach every student about democracy and the US Constitution. This section follows the blueprint of Milton Friedman to end public education.
What Can You Do?
Send messages to your Senator or to any Senator that these proposals must be kept out of the Senate budget now being written. ESA’s and voucher expansion are not only bad policy but would further demoralize teachers and administrators.
Besides your own Senator, please email the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that approves the Senate budget before it goes to the full Senate. The Senate budget is expected to be unveiled next week or in early April.
Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee:
Senator Ryan Mishler, Chair Senator.Mishler@iga.in.gov
Senator Eric Bassler Senator.Bassler@iga.in.gov
Senator Phil Boots Senator.Boots@iga.in.gov
Senator Liz Brown Senator.Brown@iga.in.gov
Senator Ed Charbonneau Senator.Charbonneau@iga.in.gov
Senator Michael Crider Senator.Crider@iga.in.gov
Senator Jon Ford Senator.Ford@iga.in.gov
Senator Chris Garten Senator.Garten@iga.in.gov
Senator Travis Holdman Senator.Holdman@iga.in.gov
Senator Eddie Melton Senator.Melton@iga.in.gov
Senator David Niesgodski Senator.Niezgodski@iga.in.gov
Senator Fady Qaddoura Senator.Qaddoura@iga.in.gov
Senator Karen Tallian Senator.Tallian@iga.in.gov
In addition to the points above ask the Senators:
· How will taxpayers know whether they are funding a home school that teaches extremism supporting the overthrow of the US Constitution?
· How will taxpayers know whether they are funding a home school that teaches racism?
ESA’s provide no protections to taxpayers on these questions.
Grassroots support of public schools makes all the difference. Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org