Vic’s Statehouse Notes #367
The threat to public education by Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) is clear. ESAs could be expanded to all students in the upcoming session of the Indiana General Assembly.
Before the election, ask every candidate for the Indiana House or the Indiana Senate: Will you oppose expanding Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) to all students?
If the candidates don’t answer with a clear “YES” to oppose ESAs, they should not get your vote.
Take action before the election on November 8.
This election could decide whether public education is further privatized and undermined in Indiana.
What are ESAs?
For those who would privatize our public schools, their goal is in sight.
Followers of Milton Friedman in Indiana have long had a plan to undercut our public schools and give tax dollars for K-12 education directly to parents rather than to our public schools. In Indiana, the mechanism is called Education Scholarship Accounts.
The 2021 General Assembly, despite our vigorous opposition, already approved ESAs for special education students by attaching the proposal to a popular budget. Now, a proposal to expand ESAs to all students, known as universal Education Scholarship Accounts, the holy grail of school privatizers, is getting behind-the-scenes support from key leaders in the General Assembly. That support appears to be enough to put ESAs in a glide-path to be included in the budget.
The only apparent way to stop ESAs is the election.
What is wrong with ESAs?
ESAs would bring the demise of public schools in Indiana. The flaws are compelling:
NO PUBLIC OVERSIGHT. Public taxpayers would be paying for home schools or independent schools but would have no way to influence or oversee what is taught or how they are run. Instead of giving education money to a publicly chosen board to run schools for the entire community under the transparent rules of democracy, ESAs would give money with no public input to parents who would pick all providers, including those without strong credentials, to teach their children or in their independent school.
NO STUDENT STANDARDS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY. The law sets no standards at all for ESA parent grants. Under the current radical ESA plan, all a parent needs to do to get the approximately $7,000 per student that normally goes to schools is to fill out a simple online application saying their student will study basic subjects. No art, no music, no foreign language will be required.
NO PROTECTION FROM EXTREMISM. In an era when extremist ideology is a major concern, there is no protection in this ESA plan from funding home schools run by extremist parents using your tax dollars. The opening to discrimination and to teaching prejudice is clear. This is a real threat to our democracy.
NO CRIMINAL BACKGROUND CHECKS. While teachers and even school volunteers must pass criminal background checks to work with students, parents of eligible students can get approximately $7,000 of taxpayer money for their home school with no criminal background checks regarding previous child abuse, neglect or fraud charges. The potential for fraud is an obvious problem.
NO FUNDING RELIEF FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Every time a student signs up for an ESA, the $7,000 or so the local public school used to get will disappear from the school budget. Poorly funded programs will start a death spiral for the community public schools. Schools serving both low-income and high-income areas will feel the funding pinch.
Now is the time!
The month before the election is the time when candidates are listening to voters. Let every candidate know they must pledge to oppose Education Savings Accounts to get your vote.
Our public schools have served as the backbone of our democracy for 170 years; they deserve our protection from this radical scheme.
Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org
Vic’s Statehouse Notes and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!
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