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Protest encouraged against expanding voucher eligibility

The Governor’s Commission on Teacher Salaries recently showed Hoosiers how woefully inadequate Indiana teacher salaries are. Indiana has the largest decline in teacher pay for any state in the nation since 2000. Per-pupil spending is the lowest in the Midwest and 38th in the nation.

As Indiana begins the 2021 Indiana General Assembly session, where the two-year state budget will be created, the governor and leaders for the Republican super majorities in the House and Senate have stated their commitment to maintaining public school funding and said they want to see increases in teacher salaries. These are good intentions for public education.

At the same time, Republican leaders are gearing up to divert even more state funds away from public schools by expanding the private school voucher program to remove all financial restrictions for families to qualify for a voucher.

Vouchers cost Indiana $172.8 million in 2019-20, depriving every Indiana public school system of $172 per student. If your local public school district serves 6,000 students, it’s losing more than $1 million a year.

More than 36,000 private and religious school students received vouchers in 2018-19, but nearly 41,000 students attending the same private and religious schools do not currently use a voucher. If the income requirements are removed, the number of students already in these schools qualifying for vouchers could more than double. The additional cost for taxpayers would be enormous. Imagine the voucher expense doubling to $345.6 million annually.

All taxpayers, including low-income taxpayers, would be paying the tuition bill for wealthy families with students already in private schools.

There is no other way to interpret this; it diverts state dollars from the poorest and neediest of public school students in order to give to the wealthiest. If the state education budget doubles its voucher expense, how can it possibly increase teacher salaries?

Every public school family and business-conscious citizen should protest and discourage legislators from diverting scarce and needed public education funding to expand voucher eligibility.

Dr. Tony Lux | Crown Point, Ind.

Editor’s note: Dr. Tony Lux is a retired public school superintendent and a board member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.