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In the best interests of Hoosier children

School choice offers families widest range of options

High-quality education is imperative to the future of our Hoosier state. As a father and grandfather, I want what is best for all children. Providing parents with the opportunity to choose the best environment for their children to learn and excel is not a choice; in my opinion it is a moral obligation.

Public schools serve the vast majority of Hoosier students and are critical to the educational success of our state. However, we should provide an alternative for parents and students who need to find another environment that better fits their needs.

I have advocated to allow parents the opportunity to choose where their child goes to school since I was elected in 1992. I have remained steadfast in my resolve to give all children education options no matter their financial situation.

I have heard from countless parents who continue to utilize the School Choice Program for a variety of reasons. These include bullying, specialized learning needs, school safety, the desire to introduce their child to a new environment and many others. However, there are still thousands of families who are unable to accommodate their own child’s needs.

Military families are a key reason I want to expand access. Military families who move to Indiana may want to use the School Choice Program but are unable to because their child must attend a public school first. I do not think it fair to sacrifice a child’s education while their parent is sacrificing everything while serving our country.

Recently, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled 5-0 that Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Law is constitutional. The Supreme Court upheld the voucher program, expressing that vouchers do not violate the state’s prohibition against public funding of religious institutions since the parents and children were the primary beneficiaries of the vouchers.

Just as a college student can use public funds to attend a private university, a K-12 student should be able to use public funds to attend a private institution.

Currently, 255,000 students nationwide attend a private school of their parents’ choice through a voucher or tax-credit program, in addition to 2.3 million students who utilize public charter schools as their preferred option, according to the Friedman Foundation of Educational Funding. More than 9,000 students participate in the Choice Scholarship Program across the Hoosier state.

All children deserve to have the same opportunities to excel academically regardless of the financial circumstances in which they are born. The Choice Scholarship program provides students from lower-income families a high-quality education that they may otherwise not receive. Parents will be able to provide a choice for their children.

Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, is chairman of the House Education Committee. He wrote this for Indiana newspapers.

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