The Journal Gazette
Friday, February 19, 2021 1:00 am

'Voucher spigot' drains needed resources

Greg Slyford

It is not that I have served in public education as an elementary and middle school teacher, a reading specialist, a school counselor and a central office administrator that makes me a strong proponent of public education.

Though I suppose such experience does give me a degree of credibility – unlike many Republican legislators who hold our state's educational purse strings – to know a bit of what I am talking about from an insider's perspective.

Rather, it is the historically understood and accepted fact that a well-funded, vibrant public education system serving 90% of our student population is the backbone of a thriving democracy.

My belief in a strong public education system causes me to ask why our supermajority Republican legislators through such measures as the current House Bill 1005 insist on chipping away at the overall funding base of public education through the financial expansion of its school voucher program.

A voucher program that was initially intended to give low-income families financial support to secure different educational options has expanded into a “voucher spigot” designed to pour dollars into private and parochial schools and give generous tax credits to taxpayers choosing not to offer their children a public education.

Parents who forgo public education for their children in order to send them to private and parochial schools are, of course, free to do so. These educational institutions have their rightful place in our community, but not at the expense of public education.

On the whole, our state's legislators, particularly on the Republican side of the aisle, would do better by our democracy if they bolstered existing public education funding overall, expanded existing post-secondary education and training scholarship programs such as the state's 21st Century Scholars Program and funded in earnest a K-12 career pathway program for all students that culminated in a senior year internship in the community with an accompanying portfolio presentation created by each student.

This is the type of all-in public educational funding our business, medical, research, arts, financial and other community sectors are calling for.

Instead, our Republican state legislators keep chipping away at the very bedrock of our democracy – intentionally or not – by pitting private and parochial education against public education when it comes to funding.

What should transpire with especially our state Republican legislators is to start listening to our state's educated, trained, experienced, emotionally and intellectually invested citizens at the college, career training and K-12 school levels. These individuals know there are much better ways – short and long term – to spend hard-earned Hoosier taxpayer dollars in support of our students and our democracy than by pouring them into vouchers.

So, state legislators, push the pause button on HB 1005 and instead push the easy button to start listening to trained educators throughout the state on how to redirect existing voucher dollars.

Fort Wayne resident Greg Slyford is a retired educator.

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