Once More, With (Angry) Feeling…

In case you doubt my repeated assertions that the Republicans controlling Indiana’s legislature are waging all-out war on the state’s public schools, take a look at the current status of bills heading for passage this legislative session.

The budget bill has a 5% increase for public schools in the first year of the two-year budget. That minor increase, however, has to cover the newly “free” textbooks–a requirement that reduces funds left for  everything else (including teacher salaries) by 1.5 to 2%.    

Contrast that with the planned raise in virtual charter school funding in the first year– 18.3%, despite the state’s past unfortunate experience with “virtual” schooling. Or with  voucher schools funding, which is getting a 70% increase, despite the fact that those schools have failed to improve educational outcomes and increased social divisions.

That enormous increase in funding doesn’t come with any increase in accountability–far from it.

The budget also includes $10 million each year for “Education Savings Accounts” (a/k/a vouchers) plus $1.5 million each year for the State Treasurer, to cover program administration. (Interesting that oversight of a purportedly educational program isn’t handled by the Department of Education…)

Then there are the brand-new “Career Scholarship Accounts” that will pay private companies to employ students who will “learn” while they work: $7 million in year one, $14 million in year two. I’m sure it is just a coincidence that one of the sponsors of that particular boondoggle runs a company that stands to benefit handsomely from it….

A recent article from Talking Points Memo pointed out that vouchers are popular with legislators, but not with the public. The author wanted to understand why voucher programs continue to grow despite evidence they do not improve, and often even impede, students’ educational achievement.

Rather than put the question of whether to use public money for private schools before voters, advocates for choice almost always want state legislatures to make the decision instead. That may be because a careful look at the efforts suggests that if it were up to voters, school choice proposals would rarely succeed.

The article went on to describe past results in states that –unlike Indiana–allow citizens to vote on such issues via initiatives and/or referenda. In Indiana, our excessively gerrymandered legislature is not “hobbled” by a mechanism that might allow citizens to weigh in.

A new report by Public Funds Public Schools—a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and Education Law Center (ELC)—has documented a massive increase in public spending on voucher programs in the decade following the Great Recession.

The report, The Fiscal Consequences of Private School Vouchers, examines the growth in voucher programs and spending in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin from fiscal year 2008 through fiscal year 2019. For comparison, the report provides data for per-pupil expenditures on public education in inflation-adjusted dollars for these seven states, as well as the nation’s 43 other states, over this same period.

But it isn’t just money.

Lawmakers aren’t just defunding public education–they are passing bills that make teaching hazardous. In Indiana, Senate Bill 12 will remove the legal defense currently available to school teachers and librarians (who they evidently believe are handing out porn to kindergarten students) and adds yet another mechanism through which parents can challenge school library materials. 

House Bill 1407 is one of the numerous, misnamed “parental rights” bills targeting trans children; it opens the door for litigation against schools, teachers and other government employees who might exhibit a modicum of compassion for these children.

Then there’s House Bill 1608, providing that “no employee, nor a third-party school vendor may provide any instruction to a student in K-3 on human sexuality.” 

An employee or staff member of a school may only use a name, pronoun, title, or other word to identify a student that is inconsistent with the student’s biological sex as either male or female based on genetics and reproductive biology at birth if the student is emancipated or a parent requests in writing the use of the specific name, pronoun, title or other word to identify the student.

There’s much more, but you get the gist: our state lawmakers–few of whom have any background in education (or medicine, when it comes to issues of gender dysphoria)–are engaged in an all-out war on our  public schools and the people who teach in them.

Hoosier Legislators are pouring our tax dollars into the coffers of religious schools–and now, “connected” businesses–despite years of evidence disproving the original justifications for vouchers. They are weaponizing state laws in order to provide legal tools to the rightwing activists working to overrule the documented preferences of large majorities of parents who have children in those schools. 

These culture warriors don’t care what their constituents think, but you should call them anyway.


  1. Shiela’s salient argument this morning prompted curiosity to research school finance in Indiana. https://inview.doe.in.gov/state/1088000000/finance

    According to 2020 data, Indiana spends a total of $9,200 per student … around 64% of which is for instruction. The total budget is more than $9.5 billion.

    Sources for financing public school education are derived from more creative financing authority than perhaps the average citizen like me appreciates.

    There is a great deal I do not know, but this I do know, public schools and libraries are treasures and cornerstones to an open and free democracy to be objectively supported and carefully nurtured.

    Thank you, Shiela, for your passion to bring this to our attention.

  2. Sheila writes, “In Indiana, our excessively gerrymandered legislature is not “hobbled” by a mechanism that might allow citizens to weigh in.”

    PLEASE explain to me how this resembles a democracy. I have to assume that in Arkansas, where the Walton oligarchs rule (and the Kochs), we are letting children work in meatpacking plants. As young as 14-15 with no consequences.

    This is capitalism from the 20s. The kind of economy which exploits children and sees how to reduce taxes they pay for education. “High-priced teachers, but not high-priced administrators or owners.”

  3. “Hoosier Legislators are pouring our tax dollars into the coffers of religious schools–and now, “connected” businesses–despite years of evidence disproving the original justifications for vouchers. They are weaponizing state laws in order to provide legal tools to the rightwing activists working to overrule the documented preferences of large majorities of parents who have children in those schools.”

    Indiana seems to get little, if any, attention from the federal level on any issue. Even when Republicans snagged Pence as Trump’s running mate, knowing he would not make waves to rock their boat, little attention was paid to this state. Republicans can consider it a “given” come election time and Democrats seeing us as a “lost cause” without even try to bring change here. The Carrier fiasco with president-elect Trump and our own former governor/vice-president-elect Pence waged their short lived action to save jobs already gone and provide that $6 MILLION payoff to Carrier wasn’t newsworthy anywhere but here. The “feds” providing tax dollars to Indiana’s public education budget ignore the voucher and charter systems wasting their/our tax dollars. The fact the Vice President Mike Pence stood his ground to follow the Constitutional requirement on January 6, 2021, and called Congress back into session to finalize the presidential vote count brought little attention to his home state and is now being used by Republicans to martyr Trump as losing the election due to his back stabbing vice president.

    President Biden wants to use an Executive Order to require universal background checks to purchase guns and to end the sale of assault level weapons to the public. Indiana’s lax gun laws are the source of gun purchases from surrounding states aiding in maintaining mass shootings and our own morning shooting reports on the news are ignored by the federal level. They don’t want to lose our Republican support to provide religious education to our children and let the majority of middle American children here and in other states to get their leavings to educate future Republican followers to maintain the Red State system here.

    They simply don’t care and we have so little representation at the federal level; that is not going to change unless and until voters here care enough to vote to end the uneducation at the state level.

  4. Listen here, we all know it just takes time to see the massive increases in quality education that voucher schools promise. Indiana has only been doing it for 20 years. People need to wait at least a forever before questioning the validity of a voucher program.

    Besides, how can anyone claim a voucher doesn’t work when there’s that evil public option at all? Surely we should finally just remove all public schools. I’m sure that will solve the problem of private entities not getting all the educational money directly. And isn’t that what we really want? For the children.

  5. Pick your poison. Down here in the Free State of Florida, we’re doing away with anything remotely resembling Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion in the university system. It’s a little bit of paradise for those who want to be free from Decency, Logic and Intelligence.

  6. Dirk Gently’s first paragraph captures the essence of the issue. Folks want results too soon. Just be patient,incrementalism is your friend. You must accept incrementalism.

  7. While I am concerned about education privatization by vouchers and all that that implies, the taking away of long respected (except in the area of abortion) rights of medical decisions for parents’ children with transgender children and youth is even more egregious than the school situation. Standards of care for transgender children and youth are approved by pretty much every legitimate medical association, but the Republicans, and not just in our state, know better. Getting their information from highly legitimate right wing think tanks (sarcasm warning) and from doctors who get their truth from their religous beliefs (people being transgender is a fantasy, in spite of historical data across cultures showing that it has been present in cultures across the spectrum and thoughout history, although in the cultures with mostly Abrahamic religious beliefs in legal records showing their persecution) they make bogus claims about protecting children by taking away their trans related medical care which care greatly reduces their suicidal ideation and their suicide rate. This claim is brutally undermined by the many other anti trans efforts they are making to isolate and even make illegal even living as a transgender person. I’m sure you remember the uproar about transgender atheletes. Now their coming for all transgender rights. Michael Knowles (of the Daily Wire) called for a complete ban on transgenderism (sic), Candace Owens (Blexit Foundation) has referred to trans people as “demonic” and expressed a desire to “beat them with a cane.” Next they will becoming again for women, by trying to make birth control illegal and evetually taking away women’s right to vote, Black people’s right to voted, and on and on until we get back to at least the early 50s, if not the 1880s, after recontruction, when even the Bill or Rights did not apply to state laws.

  8. We like to complain about our representation to government accepting influence through pay from multiple competing “employers”; taking pay for their services from us, and lobbyists. Rightly we should. No other employer would tolerate that.

    However once you move away from the monetization of it, we all do it. I have been created in the image of multiple lobbies: the male heterosexual lobby. The small rural upstate NY town lobby. The Puritan lobby. The 1950s and 60’s lobby. My parental family and my friends lobby. The Confederacy of the ‘60s in Virginia lobby. The Engineering lobby. My wife’s lobby. My children’s lobby. The US Constitution lobby. Etc, etc, etc.

    The key is in prioritizing and balancing conflicting lobbies of which there are many.

    A bottom line priority for me is my freedom defined by my Constitutional rights from government and my reciprocity in granting the same rights to all other Americans and acceptance of the laws of government. The right to free and fair education which informs me of the unbiased history of human progress empowered by our unrelenting growth in knowledge is one such right.

  9. Peggy, right on. I am writing this from Naples, Florida, where yesterday I signed a deed of my home here on a lake to a couple from Illinois. I like the weather and the people here but will not live under the rule of a fascist governor whose takeover of curriculum of preschool through institutions of higher learning is only one of several atrocities his rule has brought into being.

    I suppose my move back to Indiana after all these years could fit the description of “from the frying pan into the fire,” but bad as Indiana’s supermajority rule is and can be (see, inter alia, Sheila’s effort today), I don’t think Hoosier Republicans have embraced fascism – yet – but if it happens there’s always Vermont or upstate New York, with winters in St. Croix.

  10. You’ve captured it very well, Sheila. Apparently our legislature wants the teacher shortage to get worse.

  11. People – you must understand the new rules (MAGA style)
    You are free!!! Free!!!

    Free to read any book, that we approve of.
    Free to teach in any way, that we approve of.
    Free to trust any medical decision, that we approve of.
    Free to raise your children in any way, that we approve of.

    You are FREE!

    Now we (DeSantis, Indiana lawmakers – take your pick) know better that doctors, teachers, or academics. We define freedom. We define truth. We rely on truthiness. Don’t try to confuse us with facts.

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