By Victor Skinner
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s public schools will soon get increased funding, thanks to dollars that were saved through the state’s private school voucher program.
It cost the Indiana Department of Instruction $4.9 million less to educate students in private schools than in did to send them to government schools in a recent school year, and the state is reinvesting most of the savings in public schools, as called for by law, the Associated Press reports.
Melissa Ambre, the department’s director of school finance, wrote a letter to members of the State Budget Committee, informing them the state saved nearly $5 million from the voucher program and will return $3.3 million, the AP reports.
But the savings drew a cold response from officials at the Indiana chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (the state’s largest teachers union), who contend it isn’t enough.
Indiana AFT president Rick Muir believes public schools are entitled to much more money.
“Public schools aren’t getting the money that’s been cut from the budget,” he told the AP. “They can claim that all they want, but public schools are receiving much less funding than they have prior to vouchers.”
Muir’s comments are quite misleading.
Indiana, like most states, reduced K-12 funding during the national recession to reflect lower tax revenues and balance the state’s budget. In the most recent two-year budget passed this year, state lawmakers increased education spending by $300 million, including an increase for the voucher program, the AP reports.
Muir also neglects to mention that Indiana’s public schools now have 9,300 fewer students to educate because of transfers to private schools. Next year that number is expected to increase again, as it has each year since the voucher program launched in 2011.
Essentially, public schools are getting a portion of the state funding for each student who uses a voucher to attend a private school, even though they’re no longer responsible for educating those students.
It’s money for nothing, and Muir should be ecstatic because money is usually the teachers union’s main focus.
But Muir understands that with each student who transfers to a private school, the teachers union and education establishment lose a little bit of the power and influence they’ve enjoyed for decades.
And the only thing more important to the union than money is power.