Mt. Vernon Register-News

Community News Network

March 19, 2013

Voucher opponents rally at Statehouse

Senate committee to hear bill Wednesday

INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of people gathered at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday to rally against a bill that would expand the state’s private-school voucher program, already the largest in the nation. Chanting “no more vouchers” and carrying signs with such messages as “Don’t use my tax money to teach religion,” opponents of the legislation said growing the voucher program would siphon away millions of dollars from traditional public schools still hurting from past budget cuts.

Indiana PTA president Sharon Wise called the legislation, supported by Republican Gov. Mike Pence, “a massive overstep.”

A Senate committee is scheduled to hear the bill Wednesday; the House has already passed a version of the legislation that could significantly expand the number of private- and religious school students eligible for the state-paid vouchers.

A roar of approval from the crowd went up when Vigo County Schools Superintendent Danny Tanoos said lawmakers need to be reminded of last November’s election, when voucher-opponent and school teacher, Glenda Ritz, beat Republican incumbent Tony Bennett, a voucher supporter, in the race for state schools superintendent.  

“Was the message not clear when we sent Tony Bennett packing?” Tanoos said. “Was it not clear when a great teacher, and not a politician, beat him by 100,000 votes?”

The rally took place in the large, open-ceiling atrium of the Indiana Statehouse as legislators, meeting in session a floor above, could hear the crowd chanting and applauding the rally’s speakers.

It was organized by the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, whose members helped launch a social media campaign credited for Ritz’s surprise victory.

Tuesday’s rally was large and loud but it paled in comparison to a Statehouse rally held last week by voucher supporters, who brought children from private and parochial schools that accept the state vouchers as tuition payments.  

Pence spoke at that rally, along with several Republican legislative leaders.

The governor supports legislation that would loosen the restrictions on the state’s current voucher program, which provides an average of $4,100 in tuition payments for about 9,100 students from low-income families enrolled in private and parochial schools.

Pence backed a version of the bill that would’ve opened the program to thousands more students by waiving the requirement that students attend at least one year of public school before they can apply for a voucher.

The House passed a scaled-back version of the bill that allows kindergartners and siblings of current voucher students to be eligible for a voucher without having to wait a year.

House Democrats who voted against the bill argued it was fiscally irresponsible to expand the program when it is only in its second year and while a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality is awaiting a ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court.

Senate Republicans may rein in the bill for fiscal reasons. State Sen. Luke Kenley, the powerful chairman of the Senate appropriations committee, has already said he opposes expanding the program until the state has a better handle on its future costs.  

The House Republican budget bill forecasts spending for the voucher program to grow over the next two years from the current $37 million a year to $63 million annually, with the number of students growing to 15,000 in the 2014-2015 school year.

Those additional dollars would come from the $270 million that House Republicans want to restore to K-12 school funding, which was cut by almost $300 million in the past budget cycle due to the recession. Pence opposes that additional education funding, and instead is pushing for a cut in the state’s income tax rate.

The state Supreme Court is weighing the legality of the program after hearing arguments in November over a lawsuit pressed by the Indiana State Teachers Association that virtually all of the voucher money goes to schools whose primary purpose is to promote the teachings of their affiliated churches.

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.



 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks