The Indiana Senate will now review legislation expanding the state’s school voucher program, already one of the largest in the nation.
House Bill 1005, which expands funding for Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program passed the House in a vote of 61-36 Tuesday.
This program has provided grants, or vouchers, to allow students across the state to attend nonpublic schools since 2011. House Democrats attempted unsuccessfully to amend the bill in committee and on the floor, saying it drains money from public schools.
The author of the bill, Rep. Bob Behning (above), R-Indianapolis, said he thinks now is the perfect time for the legislation.
“I think it’s time to empower parents and let parents help make that decision,” Behning said. “This is not pitting one against the other but uplifting parents and giving them the option.”
House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, spoke in support of HB 1005 during its final reading Tuesday. He said 160,000 students have already “chosen” the Choice Scholarship Program.
“We don’t fund schools. We don’t fund systems,” Huston said. “We fund students.”
He said the bill holds the parent, who is the one most concerned with and responsible for their child’s education, accountable for choosing what school is best for their child.
An analysis of HB 1005’s financial impact by the Indiana Legislative Services Agency put a $66 million price tag for the next two years, but the state budget bill on which the House will vote allocates $144 million to the expansion of school vouchers and the establishment of education savings accounts.
Hope Shrum is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.