The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, February 09, 2021 1:00 am

FWCS resolute against vouchers

Board, teachers oppose legislators' expansion bill

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne Community Schools leaders formalized Monday their opposition to proposed legislation that would expand Indiana's voucher program.

“The public schools educate 90% of the students, and why we are catering to the small 10% is beyond me,” school board President Anne Duff said.

Lawmakers are considering expanding the current Choice Scholarship program, in which the state pays vouchers for private education. They also are considering creating new Education Scholarship Accounts, giving parents control of schooling dollars. The latter is limited for special education students, foster children and children of active-duty military members.

FWCS and the Fort Wayne Education Association make clear their opposition to House Bill 1005 and Senate Bills 412 and 413 in a joint resolution to be shared with legislators.

“There is no urgency to pass this measure during a pandemic that is already imposing severe financial constraints on public schools, as parents in Indiana already have an array of state-funded options,” the resolution states.

Options for Hoosier families include traditional public schools, charter schools, virtual schools, Choice Scholarships and tax credits and deductions for private and home-school education, the resolution adds.

“What the General Assembly is considering is fiscally irresponsible,” board member Steve Corona said. “They have not demonstrated the oversight ability to follow the dollars that have been given previously.”

Corona had an example to support his claim – the alleged $68 million in fraudulent spending by virtual charter schools.

Board member Noah Smith pointed out that FWCS is accountable for every dollar it spends, even for mundane items including toilet paper.

The House Education Committee last week advanced House Bill 1005.

Duff said she isn't comforted knowing the panel reduced its cost from about $100 million a year to about $30 million.

“It still opens up the floodgates,” Duff said. “I don't think the people who wrote the bill care as long as it's passed because they know down the road they can add more and more dollars to this bill. I don't think it should be passed whatsoever.”

Duff also reiterated a statement in the resolution – that private and religious schools can refuse students, such as those with special needs or those with behavioral problems. “Parents aren't really getting the choice that (lawmakers) so often talk about,” she said.

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