A major expansion of K-12 vouchers is included in the pre-kindergarten expansion bill, House Bill 1004.
The Senate Education Committee will hold a hearing on House Bill 1004 in their next meeting on Wednesday, March 8 at 1:30pm in the Senate Chamber.
If you can't come to testify against the bill, I urge you to contact members of the committee before the Wednesday afternoon meeting to ask them to:
The members of the Senate Education Committee to contact are:
Republican Senators Kruse, Raatz, Bassler, Crane, Freeman, Kenley, Leising and Zay
Democratic Senators Melton, Mrvan and Stoops
We must not entwine a highly controversial expansion of the K-12 private school voucher program with the much needed pre-K program.
If you want to paste all of the committee members' email addresses into the "to" field of your email, copy this group:
Expanding K-12 Vouchers is Nearly as Expensive to Taxpayers as the Pre-K Expansion
House Bill 1004 makes every student that gets a pre-kindergarten grant eligible for a K-12 voucher for the rest of their 13 years of K-12 schooling. Some 2300 pre-K students would become eligible now based on the pre-K grants they have already received.
Eventually as the pre-K program grows to nearly universal levels, the expense of a K-12 voucher for nearly all students would fall on taxpayers as well.
The latest Legislative Services Agency fiscal note (Feb. 7) lists scenarios where pre-K students use a voucher to go on to kindergarten when they would "not attend public school otherwise" as costing the state between $5.9 million and $10.5 million, depending on whether family income would give them a 50% voucher or a 90% voucher. If all pre-K students "would have attended public school otherwise" but took a voucher instead, LSA says the state could save up to $4 million.
If the projected cost to taxpayers of $10 million turns out to be accurate, that means that the cost in HB 1004 for expanding K-12 vouchers is as high as the additional $10 million for pre-K expansion in the House budget.
Adding a K-12 voucher component to the pre-K bill doesn't make sense in the budget.
I opposed HB 1004 in the House hearing because of this expensive and inappropriate link between pre-K and K-12 vouchers. This link does not currently exist in the pre-K pilot program, and it should not start now.
Continuity Is Not Mentioned in the Bill Language
Representative Behning, the bill sponsor, claimed that the reason for giving lifetime voucher eligibility to all students receiving pre-K grants is to allow continuity from private and religious pre-school programs to the private and religious kindergarten programs in the same school.
His language in the bill, however, says nothing about continuity. It says a voucher will go to any student who has received a pre-K grant "at any time" if they meet the family income guideline ($89,900). Thus, students attending public pre-K programs would also be eligible for a taxpayer-funded voucher. This provision, as cited above, could cost millions.
That is far more than a continuity rule. That is a pipeline to universal K-12 vouchers.
This bill would lock in eligibility for every child who receives a pre-school grant either from state funds or from private matching grant funds to receive a private school voucher for the next 13 years through high school.
Expanding to Higher Income Families
House Bill 1004 not only provides a lifetime private school voucher to every student receiving a pre-school grant, but it provides the voucher to wealthier families. HB 1004 expands eligibility for a school voucher to a family of four making $89,900, far more generous than the $67,432 income limit applied to most current applicants for a K-12 voucher. Only disabled students are currently allowed a voucher with the expanded $89,900 income cap.
All this makes HB 1004 the biggest K-12 voucher expansion since the 2013 session!
We must not make this important step for pre-school part of the march to privatize public education in Indiana.
I urge you to contact members of the Senate Education Committee before Wednesday (March 8) at 1:30pm to ask them to amend House Bill 1004 to delete Sections 21 and 22 and to restore Section 18 which is our current law quoted above separating pre-K grants and K-12 vouchers.
Ask them to amend House Bill 1004 to read like the Senate's bill (SB 276) in expanding preschool without expanding K-12 private school vouchers.
We need to expand pre-K programs but it should not be done with a major increase in the K-12 voucher program.
Thank you for actively supporting public education in Indiana!
Vic Smith firstname.lastname@example.org