updated: 2/22/2013 6:08:42 AM
A bill to expand the pool of students eligible for private school vouchers in Indiana has been passed by the House. Supporters of the proposal say it would create a scholarship granting program for preschool education and a tax credit initiative. Opponents believe it's too soon to expand the program.
Another bill dealing with school vouchers has been pulled by House Speaker Brian Bosma.
That proposal called for administration of vouchers to be shifted to an agency that reports directly to the Governor's office.
It was pulled after Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz stated applications would start being accepted in March.
Ritz had a role in a lawsuit against the voucher program before she was elected last November.
February 22, 2013
STATEHOUSE —House Bill (HB) 1003, an expansion of choice scholarships in Indiana, passed out of the House today with a vote of 57-36. Rep. Behning is the lead author on the bill, and Rep. Todd Huston (R-Fishers) is the coauthor.
“This legislation will give many Hoosier students the ability to access areas of education that are currently out of reach due to financial limitations,” said Rep. Behning. “We are telling people that, here in Indiana, our education system knows no boundaries and wants to give every student the best possible start. I firmly believe that every Hoosier student deserves the chance to learn and every parent the choice to decide what is in the best interest of their child.”
HB 1003 will expand choice scholarships, provide incentives for scholarship granting organizations and create a scholarship granting program for preschool education and a tax credit program.
The legislation will increase the Choice Scholarship for students enrolled in grades one through eight to $5,000 in 2014 and $5,500 in 2015. HB 1003 removes the requirement that a student must be entering kindergarten or had attended a public school the previous year in order to be eligible for a scholarship. Siblings of an individual who has received a Choice Scholarship will also become eligible recipients.
HB 1003 also includes the Pre-K pilot program requirements. Eligible students must have a family income at or below 200 percent Free and Reduced Lunch eligibility, be attending preschool for the first time or have received the scholarship previously.
The legislation was crafted in part to address the at-risk and vulnerable populations, where displacement is particularly high. Under the proposed law, children with special needs, foster care families and children of active duty military or veterans will have their eligibility expanded.
“Many students across Indiana have benefited from the ability to access the School Choice program,” said Rep. Behning. “We must allow more Hoosier children the opportunity to use the tools they may need to unlock their full potential and create their best future.”
Source: Office of State Representative Bob Behning