The Vigo County School Board on Monday adopted a resolution opposing proposed state legislation that would expand private school vouchers at the expense of public school funding.

Instead, the board "encourages continued support of public schools in the [state's] next biennial budget," according to the resolution, which the school board approved by a 6-0 vote. Board member Joni Wise was not present at the meeting.

The Vigo County Schools Administrators Association and the Vigo County Teachers Association also support the resolution. 

House Bill 1005 would greatly expand private school vouchers and create Education Scholarship Accounts, diverting significant funding away from public schools.

The resolution passed by the School Board says the General Assembly "should not use the current biennium to create significant new program spending, but should use this budget cycle to shore up Indiana’s fiscal house and provide adequate and appropriate funding for public schools and public and mental health services and allow cities and counties to address potential local revenue shortfalls."

The two local associations and school board "believe public schools provide a healthy educational environment for Indiana’s children and recognize the value of the recommendations in the Governor’s Teacher Compensation Commission report of Dec. 14, 2020, which provide legislators with many actionable ideas for new, future spending."

The resolution will be provided to legislators and to the Indiana School Boards Association. Many school boards throughout Indiana have adopted similar resolutions, said Rob Haworth, VCSC superintendent.

According to the Indiana School Boards Association, Education Scholarship Accounts "give selected parents who withdraw their children from public school the equivalent of a taxpayer-funded debit card loaded with an estimated $5,000 to $7,000 per child per year."

Participating parents receive 90% of the basic per-pupil funding that would otherwise go to the local public school district to spend on private schools, home schools, tutoring, therapy, and other private education products and services. 

House Bill 1005 also would expand the state's private school voucher program 

Voucher eligibility would expand to include a family of four earning $145,000 annually — about double the state’s median family income — and a family of five earning $170,000, according to ISBA.

Middle class families who are already voucher-eligible could also receive more money. HB 1005 increases the voucher amount for middle class families from 50% to 90% of the state's basic per-pupil funding.

According to ISBA, House Bill 1001, the state budget bill, allocates $144 million over the next two years to implement the expansions in House Bill 1005.  

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, who authored HB 1005 and is House Education Committee chair, stated in February, "Ultimately, I authored this legislation to do what’s best for kids and to give families the flexibility to choose a school that best meets their student’s needs."

Behning also said, "We're trying to focus on improving opportunities for kids and improving their education and performance and I think we have to look at the system as a whole. I'm somewhat agnostic as to where a kid is educated as long as the system is meeting the needs of that child. I think that's where we should be focused."

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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