Bill would expand school vouchers
By Matt Mikus firstname.lastname@example.org January 9, 2013 8:42PM
Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, and Sen. Dennis Kruse, right, R-Auburn, look over the wording in a bill during an education hearing at the Statehouse Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:35AM
INDIANAPOLIS — A bill proposed in the state Senate would make it easier for the siblings of a student attending private school through a voucher system to be approved for a voucher as well.
The state requires that any student who qualifies for a voucher spend a year in public school before using the funds for private school tuition. The bill would allow a family to have had only one child attend a public school before qualifying for the voucher.
Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, authored the bill, and he and supporters say the bill will help keep families in the same school.
“We’re always trying to find ways to get parents involved in their schools,” Yoder said, “and this bill will give families the ability to keep families in the same school.”
The bill received its first hearing Wednesday in the Senate Education and Career Development committee.
Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Nobelsville, was concerned that the bill would supersede all restrictions of the voucher program placed in 2011.
“That wasn’t the agreement or the bill that we passed,” Kenley said.
According to the Office of Fiscal and Management Analysis, the bill would increase the number of vouchers offered while not requiring the student to attend public school or receive a scholarship.
Public educators opposed the bill, since it will affect their enrollment numbers, which determines their state funding. Sally Sloan of the Indiana Federation of Teachers, said the legislature shouldn’t focus on the voucher system, which is being challenged in the state Supreme Court.
“We have to fix what’s wrong with our public schools,” she said, “and not just abandon them.”
The state Supreme Court is weighing the legality of the program after hearing arguments in November from opponents that virtually all of the voucher money goes to schools whose primary purpose is to promote the teachings of their affiliated churches.
Indiana has the country’s largest voucher program, spending about $36 million on subsidies to low- and moderate-income families toward sending about 9,100 children to private schools this year.
Cursive writing being studied
Elementary students could soon be required to learn cursive writing, if a bill is pushed forward in the state legislature.
Senators debated Wednesday whether the state should require cursive writing in the school curriculum. The bill’s author, Sen. Jean Leising, said child development professionals found it improved memory and literacy development.
“They’re saying that the ability to write and connect letters in cursive,” she said, “has a direct connection to the ability to write and read.”
Other senators brought up questions regarding how the requirement would be implemented. Sen. Earlene Rodgers, D-Gary, asked about schools that are implementing new technologies and how they will teach cursive writing.
Sen. Gregory Taylor, D-Indianapolis, asked whether the schools would lose instruction time on other subjects.