January 28, 2014

 

We recently wrote on the massive expansion of Indiana's school voucher program. The program has doubled in only 1 year costing taxpayers more than $80 million.

 

However, SB 322 authored by Sen. Scott Schneider seeks to expand Indiana’s private school voucher program even further by enabling private voucher schools to give students something other than Indiana’s sanctioned standardized test--the ISTEP exam.

 

Private schools already benefit from standards different than those of public schools--namely, private schools can refuse admission to students. Enabling private schools to also bypass the same accountability test to which all Indiana public schools must adhere is both shameful and galling to Hoosier taxpayers.

 

Not lost on anyone in this proposal is that once private schools would no longer be required to administer the ISTEP test to its students, these schools would also no longer receive a letter grade for their school’s performance.

 

Would any legislator even consider allowing a public school to sidestep ISTEP and bypass the school letter grade accountability too? We think not.

 

That is why we agree with Sen. Luke Kenley who recently said in response to the DOE’s latest voucher report, “we need to have a good parallel accountability system for the schools that take voucher students.” If these schools are taking taxpayer dollars from our state’s public schools, the least we could do is hold them just as accountable for educating our children.

 

Incredibly, too, SB 322 prohibits Indiana’s own Department of Education from requiring that these private schools report any information “that is not necessary” and to reduce “undue reporting burdens” on these schools. This is the height of arrogance and presumption.

 

Should SB 322 pass—with little to no accountability attaching to the private voucher schools that siphon taxpayer dollars away from public schools that serve all children—then these private and predominantly parochial schools get their cake and eat it, too.

 

We ask that members of the Senate Education committee oppose this bill at their meeting this Wednesday at 1:30p. Members and supporters of public schools should contact the committee members as well and ask that they vote no to SB 322.