GOP-Led Panel Tweaks Daniels' School Voucher Bill

Income Guidelines, Accountability Rules Adjusted

Fewer families would qualify for private school vouchers under changes Republican lawmakers have made to GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels' controversial proposal.

The voucher program would use taxpayer money to help parents send their children to private schools.

Critics said vouchers drain money from public schools, while advocates contend the bill would give low- and middle-income families more options.

"In 1996 when we started, there were five programs in five districts. Today there are 26 programs that are operating in 16 states and Washington, D.C.," said Robert Enlow, CEO of the Education Choice Foundation.

But some parents testified that funneling money away from public schools will only hurt education.

"Vouchers are a risk that we simply cannot afford," said Dena Rae Hancock, who has seven children in public schools. "Legislation that is being proposed is going to drain millions of dollars from Indiana's public schools."

So many people wanted to testify at the hearing that after four hours, the chairman announced the panel would break. He later said the committee will take up the issue again Wednesday morning. Lawmakers could vote on the bill then.

The Republican-led House Education Committee amended the bill Tuesday to tighten income guidelines for the "school choice scholarships" and to specify that participating private schools must fall under state accountability rules.