News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 20, 2013

Vigo schools superintendent among those who rally crowd in Statehouse

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

INDIANAPOLIS — As Tuesday’s Statehouse rally got under way, Vigo County School Corp. Superintendent Dan Tanoos lead the charge in denouncing any expansion of private school vouchers.

“Are you proud of public education?” he asked the hundreds of people who attended. They cheered, loudly.

“Are we tired of being pushed around in our profession?” Again, more cheers.

“It’s time to say — no more vouchers,” he said, and the chant “no more vouchers” echoed through the south atrium, where the rally was conducted.

He was the first speaker after an introduction by Marilyn Shank, a board member of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education, which organized the event in partnership with the Indiana Parent Teacher Association (PTA).

Although a proposed budget being considered by the Indiana General Assembly would increase school tuition support by 2 percent or $132 million in 2014, Vic Smith — a member of the coalition — projects that if the various bills to expand voucher eligibility pass, vouchers would take at least $21 million of the new school funding away from public schools and divert it to private schools.  

Also, “School budgets were deeply slashed by $300 million in December 2009,” Smith said. “To this day that money has not been restored to our schools.”  

Tanoos told those assembled Tuesday, “With vouchers and charters, money and resources are siphoned off from public schools,” which must accept and work with all children.

Private schools don’t have to accept all children, he said. He talked about one child who had been attending a private school using a voucher, but the child “didn’t fit into the mold of that particular school.”

So the child now attends the public school system.

Tanoos pointed out that most of the Indiana state legislators attended public schools. He suggested that if those legislators don’t do the right thing as far as public schools, and vote against expansion of vouchers, they may face the same fate as Tony Bennett, and be voted out of office.

“This is not about Republicans and Democrats. It’s about right and wrong,” Tanoos said. “Vouchers are wrong,” he stated, and again, the crowd loudly repeated it several times.

The Vigo County School Corp. was well-represented at the rally, with more than 30 principals and central office administrators attending, as well as a few teachers.

Many held signs during the rally.

Among those attending was Aaron Warner, a Terre Haute South Vigo High School science teacher. “Public money should stay in public schools. I think there is a separation of church and state for a reason,” he said.

The vast majority of private schools in Indiana have religious affiliations, he said. “That’s not where the money should be going,” he said.

Warner also said that “private schools can be selective. We take them all … that’s not a fair playing field.”

He held a sign that said, “Stop voucher expansion.”

Lora Taylor, a teacher at Hoosier Prairie Elementary, attended “to show my support. I think the voucher program is wrong. I don’t think taxpayer dollars should be going to  private schools,” she said.

She held a sign that stated, “We need our $300 million back.”

Prior to the rally, Tanoos said he was invited to participate. Vigo County schools lost more than $100,000 this past year to private school vouchers, he said.

After the rally, Tanoos and about 30 principals and central office administrators met with area legislators, Democrats and Republicans, and others not from the Wabash Valley. The Vigo County educators hoped to have an impact on those who favor vouchers.

“There was a lot of good conversation. We expressed our points of view,” Tanoos said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.