An amendment to SB 321 was filed today by Rep. Greg Porter preventing private voucher schools from spending taxpayer-funded voucher on anything other than for educational purposes.
The issue of voucher schools misusing voucher funds has been in the news of late due to a controversial video that was posted online capturing an Indiana pastor appealing to parishioners and their friends and family to apply for taxpayer-funded private school vouchers.
The pastor’s appeal spoke to how helpful voucher funds have been to offset church expenses, pay for church repairs, expand church membership and address other non-educational uses.
More than 96% of Indiana’s voucher schools are church-based schools.
While not surprised by this revelation, we believe it is unfortunate that this issue even has to be addressed. The public sector fully understands that with government intervention comes government oversight. That is what transparency and accountability are about.
Earlier this session, Sen. Luke Kenley introduced SB 162, a bill that would have: (1) beefed up what was required in the voucher application in terms of proving income levels; and (2) called for an internal Department of Revenue audit of 10% of the applications submitted for vouchers to determine the accuracy of requests since there are income guidelines associated with the receipt of vouchers.
Sen. Kenley withdrew his bill this session because there was a cost to the state and this is a short non-budget session. Look for Sen. Kenley to re-introduce this next session.
At the very least, private voucher schools should come under the same scrutiny as public schools in terms of audits and expenditure-reporting. Instead, these private schools receive taxpayer funding, are given legislative “autonomy” under IC 20-51-4-1, and the voucher itself is permitted to go directly to the voucher school under IC 20-51-4-10.
Sen. Kenley was on the right track with SB 162.
Rep. Porter is on the right track today with his amendment to SB 321.
Please ask your Representative to vote “yes” on Rep. Porter’s amendment to SB 321 when it is presented on 2nd reading.