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.