Huntington teachers hit vouchers
30 Mar 2021 — Journal Gazette
Ashley SlobodaNiki Kelly

Huntington County public school teachers didn't use a stamp or the internet to send a message Monday to state lawmakers about proposals that would divert more money from their classrooms and into private schools.

Instead, they framed their opposition to proposed voucher expansion and new Education Scholarship Accounts with their signatures on a full-page ad in The Journal Gazette.

The Huntington Classroom Teachers' Association titled its petition "Halt the Bait & Switch."

"Legislators have told school districts that they want to provide them with certainty, and those same legislators say they understand schools have had to adapt quickly to ensure continued student learning in the face of an unprecedented public health crisis," the union said. "But that is all lip-service when crucial funding is being diverted away from the 93% of Indiana's students that attend traditional public schools."

The teachers union previously partnered with the Huntington County Community School Corp. board on a resolution opposing the same topics.

Districts statewide have issued similar resolutions, including Fort Wayne Community Schools, East Allen County Schools and, as of Monday, Northwest Allen County Schools.

In their petition, the Huntington educators assert the proposed state budget won't help public schools keep up with rising insurance costs, let alone make strides in other needed financial improvements.

"Educators and taxpayers were led to believe this session would move forward the improvements to school funding to support teacher pay : why the bait and switch?" the union said.

The Senate Education Committee has decided not to hear House Bill 1005, which contains both the expanded voucher language and creation of new Education Scholarship Accounts, which were initially called Education Savings Accounts.

Instead, the language is in the budget. That maneuver makes it harder for those who are concerned about the policy and financial impact to vote no because they would be voting against all state funding and programs rather than a stand-alone bill.

The full House chamber already passed the programs in a separate bill. But the Senate has not. They held hearings on two bills, but the Education Scholarship Accounts bill died without a committee vote in appropriations. And the voucher expansion passed the Senate but was watered down to covering only foster children.

Both indicate support was slim in the Senate.

Regardless, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray said, "there's been a fairly thorough vetting process."

He said the Republican caucus is discussing the cost to the state budget for the changes as well as the impact on public schools.

Bray said the Education Scholarship Accounts are new to the state and his caucus has been looking to other states.

"It's a little bit complex," he said. "It's important for me, at least, to see that there is accountability in these."

He said if a parent puts a child in an Education Scholarship Account, the child should still be required to take the ILEARN standardized test and have someone making sure the child is making progress.

House Speaker Todd Huston isn't backing down one bit despite the overwhelming opposition from public schools.

"I think this is the absolute right time to support parents' ability to find the right schools for their kids," he said.,

This story is provided free courtesy of The Fort Wayne Newspapers.
"Huntington teachers hit vouchers" Journal Gazette 30 Mar 2021: C1