School Choice Week at the Indiana Statehouse: Letting parents make the decision

New bill could give parents even more choices

INDIANAPOLIS – You deserve the right to choose where your child attends school: That's the idea behind "School Choice Week" kicking off at the Statehouse Monday.

Hundreds of supporters were there to push for a proposed law that could make it even easier to send your child to a school that’s best for him or her. It all has to do with state money, and parents deciding where it should go.

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Right now, if a child enrolls in the public school down the block, that school gets a certain amount of money.

Thanks to Indiana’s voucher law, parents who meet certain income requirements can take that money and use it for a private school for their child.

The law being considered right now would expand that. It would make vouchers available to more families than before and would let the state money be used for more than just tuition.

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The new bill introduces what are called “education savings accounts.”

Families who make up to $97,000 a year can set one up, allowing them to decide how to allocate the state money set aside for their child.

So if a parent didn’t want to send their child to a public school, they would be able to use that money not just for private school tuition, but also for textbooks, private tutoring and home-schooling.

Parents can even save the money and use it for their child’s college tuition.

“In Indiana we have the philosophy: ‘The money follows the child.’ And this is no different than that,” Rep. Tim Brown said. “The money follows the child.”

Brown is the sponsor on House Bill 1311, the “education savings accounts” bill.

Opponents in the Indiana Coalition for Public Education say, however, they have opposed vouchers from the beginning – and expanding them has a huge downside.

“Every time someone diverts money, it hurts the public schools,” Indiana Coalition for Public Education representative Vic Smith said. “(It) hurts all the kids who are left in those public schools.”

The Coalition is also worried about fraud: It’s possible some parents could say they are using public funds to further their child’s education, but that might not match up with reality.

The bill is still sitting in the House Education Committee as of Monday, and must move ahead by the end of the week to be considered this session.

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