Vic’s Statehouse Notes #369 – Threat to existence of public education
We have until Wednesday, January 25, to convince Senate Education Committee members that Senate Bill 305 would fatally wound public education.
The Threat to the Existence of our Community Public Schools
Fifty years ago the economist Milton Friedman proposed a plan to end government involvement in public schools. His followers have brought his plans to life one step at a time. Senate Bill 305 would give the parent of every student an Educational Savings Account via an online application to the Indiana Treasurer. The ESA (Education Scholarship Account) would be equal to 100% of the money now given to the public school district, an increase from the current 90%.
Public schools would lose an average of $7,000 per ESA student.
The parent would have full control of approximately $7,000 to direct to private providers of their choice, providers approved by the Indiana Treasurer.
It’s a formula that would strangle the funding for our public schools in just a few years, as more and more home school parents and independent micro school parents take the diverted money.
This is a watershed bill for public education. This is a test of whether public schools will survive and thrive in Indiana or instead will enter a death spiral.
No one mentioned Milton Friedman in Wednesday’s hearing on Senate bill 305. Fourteen testified against the bill and thirteen testified for the bill. The charge that the bill would bankrupt our budget when some 37,000 home school parents get an ESA at a total cost of $259 million was deflected by the bill sponsor, Senator Buchanan. He said the costs would be capped by the Appropriations Committee in the budget, as they are capped now at $10 million for the special education ESA’s. He repeated two different times that he would be happy with a new $10 million cap for SB 305.
When pressed on who would get the ESA’s if the budget is capped, he said it would be decided by “first come, first serve.” This obviously implies that future budgets will have higher and higher caps.
Several of those testifying for the bill were parents currently getting an ESA for their special education student. They clearly don’t realize that if the bill passes, opening the gates to all students on a “first come, first serve” basis, some of them will lose their current ESA if they are not quick to apply. The bill does not set aside dollars to fund previous ESA parents, and they could lose out.
The Threat to our Democracy
Taxpayers who are paying the bill would have no say in what is taught in the home schools or micro schools of ESA students. The new required civics course would be ignored.
When the debate about vouchers for private and religious school tuition heated up in 2011, Senator Brent Steele sent a letter to every legislator alerting them to his deep concerns that school tuition money might go to private schools teaching extremism. He authored an amendment that to apply for tuition vouchers, schools must agree under penalty of perjury to follow the same civic education statutes supporting democracy that public schools are required to follow. Those provisions in the voucher law still stand today, but they are not included in the ESA bill, SB-305.
In an era when extremist ideology from the left and from the right 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.
The End of Standards in Indiana
Parents getting an ESA are not required to meet any standards except to take the ILEARN test. There are no consequence for failing the ILEARN.
There is no requirement to study specific subjects. All a parent needs to do to get the money that normally goes to schools is to fill out a simple online application saying they will spend “part of the money” so their student studies “reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies or science.” Note the “or” in that sentence. No art, no music, no foreign language will be required.
After two decades of exhaustive work, the high standards Indiana has adopted for its students will be gone. Businesses thinking about moving to Indiana will not be impressed that we are allowing state standards to be ignored.
The vote will be during the Senate Education Committee meeting Wednesday, January 25, 2023 at 1:30 p.m.
Senate Education Committee members need to hear from hundreds of public school advocates that Senate Bill 305 is wrong! Giving education money directly to unaccountable parents instead of to public schools run by public school boards is wrong for Indiana!
It would undermine all that has been done to build up our public schools over the last 170 years as the centers of our communities and the cornerstone of our democracy.
You can copy these e-mail addresses and paste them into the “TO” field of your email:
Write or call committee members before Wednesday, January 25!
Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!
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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