The Indiana General Assembly is finally going home, concluding a session which most sane Hoosiers couldn’t wait to see come to an end. There was plenty of bad policy to go around (RFRA, anyone?) but–as has become typical during the Pence Administration– city schools took the greatest hit. The final budget slashed funding for urban public schools in districts serving the poorest populations, while raising amounts for rural, charter and voucher schools.
Once again, the legislature took money from the state’s most strapped public schools to increase funding for Pence’s ill-considered voucher program–currently one of the most extensive in the nation. Indiana has close to 30,000 students receiving public funds to attend private schools, some 80% of which are religious.
To add insult to injury, lawmakers also took oversight of voucher schools away from Superintendent Glenda Ritz, and moved it to the Governor’s office. According to the Indianapolis Star
A proposal was slipped in the state’s new $31.5 billion budget without public debate, moving calculation of school voucher costs from Ritz’s Department of Education to Pence’s board and shifts control over which schools qualify to receive vouchers.
If anyone thinks Pence’s office is competent to do either job, I have a bridge to sell you…
Whatever one thinks of charter schools, at least they remain part of the public system. Vouchers are another thing altogether. There are plenty of reasons to object to the growth of the state’s voucher program–vouchers bleed money from the public schools, have been shown to re-segregate students, and give parents choices without providing them with the information they need in order to inform those choices. (In Louisiana, a significant percentage teach creationism and other “biblical truths.”) Most also fail to deliver.
Proponents defend vouchers as a means of escape from “failing” public schools; the obvious implication/promise is that students will receive a better education in the private schools to which they take those vouchers.
The evidence does not support that promise.
According to a report from the bipartisan Center for Tax and Budget Accountability in Chicago, school choice in Indiana is “designed to funnel taxpayer money to private schools, with little evidence that demonstrates improved academic achievement for students who are most at risk.” The study compared Indiana’s program with those in Milwaukee, Cleveland and Washington, D.C. – some of the oldest voucher programs in the country – where they say they found similar results.
The study replicates several others that have been conducted since “school choice” programs became the easy answer to struggling schools.
Virtually all scholars who have examined the performance of voucher schools have concluded that academic gains range from none to minimal. The single improvement that has been documented is parental satisfaction; when parents feel they have had a choice, they are more empowered and exhibit more positive attitudes.
Hoosier taxpayers are paying a lot for that parental satisfaction.
The vast majority of Hoosier children, who remain in public schools being purposely drained of necessary resources in order to support private (mostly religious) education, are paying a lot more.