Thursday, April 21, 2011

Educational Legislation: Let's talk "vouchers"

Jackie Garvey
 For many years we've heard arguments for and against school vouchers. Now it appears Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels will get this legislation passed as part of his education reform agenda.
In this context, the term "vouchers" means that taxpayer money will be used for families of legislature-established income levels to pay tuition at private or parochial schools. The idea is to give choice to families who can't afford schools other than traditional and charter public schools.
Let's take a look at the major components of this legislation (there have been many changes and compromises following the House Democrats' protest/walkout to Illinois, and changes may continue):
  • - From June 2011 through June 2013, 22,500 scholarships will be awarded in grades one-12
  • - Students in grades one to eight may receive scholarships up to $4,500
  • - Scholarships will based on family income that cannot exceed 150 percent of the amount required for the student to qualify for the free or reduced-price lunch program
  • - Schools must be state accredited and give ISTEP+
  • - Scholarships will be suspended at poor-performing nonpublic schools
  • - Taxpayers who donate to organizations that grant school scholarships can take tax credits.
The pros and cons are many.
Proponents say vouchers will level the education playing field for all students and will empower parents to ensure that their children have the same opportunities as those from more affluent families. They also think the competition will force poorly performing public schools to improve or close.
Critics say this legislation will siphon money away from financially strapped public schools. They worry it will stymie efforts to improve public schools and some argue that providing money to faith-based schools is a violation of the separation of church and state.
What do you think? If your child attends public school, would you seek a voucher so he or she could go to a private school? If you'd rather keep him in public school, how do you expect the environment to change if vouchers are available?
Maybe your child attends nonpublic school. What are your thoughts on vouchers? We want to hear from you.
Best regards,
The Indiana Partnerships Center encourages and enables parents to engage with their child's school, to the mutual benefit of the child and the school.  The center, which serves all of Indiana, is one of 62 Parental Information Resource Centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement.