(Indianapolis, Ind.) - Governor Mitch Daniels and supporters of education reform in Indiana say parents will have more choices for their child’s education.
Daniels signed two bills furthering his education agenda into law Thursday, House Enrolled Act 1002 and House Enrolled Act 1003.
“If we’ve learned anything in Indiana, we’ve learned change can happen, but change is hard. Change always brings uncertainty. Indiana has seen a lot of change in the recent years, but none bigger and more important to our long-term future than the change we are about to make the law of this state,” said the governor during a signing ceremony at the Statehouse.
“Education is the civil rights issue of our generation,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett afterwards, “and I’m proud to say Indiana is leading the charge on behalf of students who have been held captive by the soft bigotry of low expectations for far too long.”
HEA 1003, the school voucher bill, allows taxpayer money to follow a student from public school to private school.
The amount of public money a student can receive to attend private school will vary depending on their family’s income. Families below levels for free and reduced lunch - or $40,000 annual income for a family of four - would be eligible for 90 percent of state tuition. Fifty-percent of tuition could go to families with income of $60,000.
Estimates say 60 percent of Indiana families would be eligible for the voucher program once the Indiana Department of Education works out details of the program.
The program will grow over three years by being capped at 7,500 scholarships in 2011-12; 15,000 in 2012-13, and then no limits beginning in 2013-14.
Critics of the legislation have said allowing money to follow students leaving public schools will only hurt public education, which saw funding cut by $600 million over the past two years. The newly approved state budget does restore $150 million of that funding.
“But perhaps the greatest tragedy of this session will be the price paid by those children who will not be among the privileged few to be able to attend charter schools or use taxpayer-funded vouchers to attend private schools,” House Speaker Pat Bauer (R-South Bend) said in his synopsis of the legislative session April 30.
“The children who are left out of these programs will see larger class sizes, fewer programs that will enable them to expand and enrich their individual talents, and fewer people to help them find those talents.”
Daniels also signed HEA 1002 expanding charter schools. A new statewide body will be created that can issue charters which must be open to any student in the state.
Charters would be required to hold random drawings for students when there are more applicants than enrollment slots available.
Public schools could also enter a conversion process to become a charter schools if they meet certain criteria.