By Ben Velderman
INDIANAPOLIS – The Indiana Supreme Court will hear arguments this morning about the legality of the state’s historic school voucher law.
Thousands of Hoosier families are using the two-year-old program to leave failing, ineffective and sometimes dangerous government-run schools in favor of private schools.
In ISTA’s view, children are merely customers. And if ISTA’s customers are allowed to transfer out of a failing union-controlled public school – with their state aid in tow – it will put the union’s financial future (and its very existence) in serious jeopardy.
But don’t take our word for it. ISTA Vice President Teresa Meredith essentially admitted that very thing in a conversation with IndyStar.com.
“When you look at the dollars coming into (the) program, those are coming right off the top of money going to our public schools. I see that as a real concern,” Meredith said.
Concerns about money – not student learning – are exactly why ISTA has sued to stop the program.
Union lawyers are expected to use the “separation of church and state” principle in their argument to repeal the voucher program.
Lawmakers anticipated that argument and designed the voucher law to withstand any constitutional challenges.
IndyStar.com notes that Marion County Superior Court Judge Michael Keele rejected the union’s “separation of church and state” line of attack when he ruled in favor of the voucher plan earlier this year.
In his ruling, Keele “noted that parents have the ability to decide for themselves where to make use of a voucher – it may be in a religious school but also can be used at secular private schools,” IndyStar.com reports.
Judge Keele also “ruled that vouchers are awarded to students and their families, not directly to religious schools. In that way, vouchers are like state-supported college scholarships and subsidized loans, which can be used at religiously affiliated universities,” notes the news site.
IndyStar.com opines that “Keele’s reasoning is sound, and the state’s highest court should follow a similar line of thought in upholding the voucher law.”
By any measure, the two-year-old law has been a smashing success. More than 9,300 students and 289 schools are taking part in the voucher program this year – up from last year’s totals of 3,900 students and 241 schools. (Families must meet certain income requirements to qualify for the program.)
According to TownTalk.com, “If Indiana’s voucher program were to keep growing at roughly the same pace it is on, it could challenge (Ohio, Louisiana and Wisconsin) for the nation’s biggest program as soon as next year.”
Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett explained the program’s popularity.
“Simply put, we are providing our neediest families options they’ve never had before, and they’re taking advantage of the opportunity to select schools that work best for their children,” Bennett said in a statement.