ISTA, Parents Battle Over School Vouchers

Judge Expects To Rule Next Week On Challenge To Indiana Law

Lawyers representing the Indiana State Teachers Association and several parents were in court Thursday to try to shut down the state's school voucher program, the most expansive in the country.

The plaintiffs contend that the system that provides money to up to 7,500 students this year to private schools is unconstitutional because it diverts taxpayer money to support religious institutions and because it will undermine public schools.

"This is truly just a voucher program, taking money away from public schools to fund religious education," said Teresa Meredith, of ISTA.

Parents on the other side of the issue said their children are depending on that money and would have to change schools in the middle of the year if the voucher bill that recently passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels is tossed.

"I would have to reevaluate the entire budget as a single mom that I live off of," said parent Heather Coffy. "I will do my best to make that happen, because I believe so strongly in the education, the best education that they're receiving."

After he listened to arguments from both sides for two hours, Judge Michael Keele said he plans to rule early next week.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller, who is defending the state in the voucher lawsuit, issued a statement urging the court to allow the law to stand.

"In defending the state law, we contend HoosiersÂ’ elected representatives in the Legislature followed the Constitution when they devised a system for the benefit of students that offers families more educational options," Zoeller said. "Using the new state choice scholarships, more than 150 students already have enrolled in different accredited schools that start this week, and any injunction would be extremely disruptive to their education while this litigation is pending."

Nearly 250 private schools were approved to receive vouchers, involving about 2,230 students. If the law stands, 15,000 vouchers would be made available next year.