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Learning Curve

  • An F for transparency
    “Look at this shiny thing over here!” – Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma, Oct. 14, 2014.

Voucher schools' parallel universe

Don't expect the changes Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, made to House Bill 1003 to slow the voucher push by Gov. Mike Pence and Republican lawmakers. They are intent on establishing a separate and unequal system of Indiana schools.

The pro-voucher Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice notes that 60 percent of the state's student enrollment will meet income eligibility guidelines for a voucher when the current cap is removed next fall. (Either the result of generous income guidelines or the poor economic status of Hoosier families after eight years of Gov. Mitch Daniels).

The flow of tax dollars from neighborhood schools to private – the majority of them religious schools like Cornerstone Christian Prep, Hasten Hebrew Academy and the Islamic School of Indianapolis – will require taxpayers to support two parallel school systems. In the private system, enrollment will be limited to students admitted only at the schools' discretion; in the other, enrollment will be open to all. Guess which one will serve students with severe disabilities? How about students with discipline problems or those whose first language is not English?

Imagine another area of government services in which income-eligible taxpayers could choose to take their money to a private provider. How about a voucher to hire private police or fire protection? How about a share of road and highway tax dollars restricted to the construction and maintenance of roads in your own neighborhood? Public parks dollars diverted to private health clubs? It's all about choice, right?

Now imagine how those existing public services would fare once those dollars are drained away to support private interests. The small-government types cheered by the prospect should consider the implications, however. Just as a blaze fought by an underfunded public fire department could quickly overtake a property covered by a private department, the effects of an underfunded public education system hold dire consequences for all of society.

Karen Francisco, editorial page editor for The Journal Gazette, has been an Indiana journalist since 1981. She writes frequently about education for The Journal Gazette opinion pages and here, where she looks at the business, politics and science of learning as it relates to northeast Indiana, the state and the nation. She can be reached at 260-461-8206 or by e-mail at