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Correction
A Tuesday editorial incorrectly reported the organization Stand for Children supports private school vouchers. The organization holds a neutral stance on vouchers.
Editorials

Grading vouchers

Behning
Kenley

If nothing else, give State Rep. Bob Behning credit for being honest.

It doesn’t matter whether students who receive private school vouchers get a better education, he told the Senate Education Committee last week. Nor does it matter whether parents can afford the private school education without a tax subsidy.

But give Sen. Luke Kenley more credit for calling Behning out.

Lawmakers told their constituents two years ago the voucher program is intended to help parents who otherwise couldn’t afford to send children from poor-performing public schools to private schools, Kenley pointed out. Besides, Kenley does not like the idea of dropping, in some cases, the requirement that parents send a child to public school for at least a year before moving the student to a private school.

Behning, R-Indianapolis, is author of a bill that would throw the original goal out the window, expanding who is eligible and raising income limits for eligibility to $84,000. Kenley, R-Noblesville, is rightly concerned about the cost of an expanded voucher program, particularly when the results of moving kids to the nascent voucher system have not been studied.

Kenley rightly recommended freezing the current rules on voucher eligibility for five years to give educators an opportunity to determine whether affected students are achieving better results.

Kenley’s recommendation is something voucher supporters and opponents, progressives and conservatives, should support. Shouldn’t a government that is spending millions of dollars on an unproven program wait to see whether it is working before increasing funding?

Behning doesn’t think so. More parents should have more choices, he believes, regardless of whether those choices help or hurt their children’s education.

Whether you support or oppose vouchers, it is irrefutable that more vouchers means more of your tax dollars will go to support parochial schools that are part of their church’s religious outreach. Among the schools standing to benefit from Behning’s bill is Lutheran High School in Indianapolis, for which Behning formerly served as board president.

His bill would also serve the interests of Stand for Children, a political action committee that supports, among other things, private school vouchers and charter schools – and which gave $500 to Behning’s campaign last year. More vouchers could also help the interests of K-12 South Point II, connected with a for-profit company that, among other products, offers private online instruction – and which gave Behning $1,000 last year.

Indiana has many needs and limited resources. Making the nation’s most expansive voucher system even more expansive before its effectiveness has been judged should not be a priority.

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