Representative Behning is the dominant legislative leader advocating that all private school students should have their private school tuition paid for by public taxpayers, which he calls the “universal voucher.”
His opponent in the May 6th primary, Michael Scott, opposes vouchers and opposes the move to expand vouchers to a universal voucher.
This crucial issue is now in the hands of the Republican primary voters in District 91. Will they support Representative Behning’s push for a universal voucher, or will they support public education and Michael Scott?
The 2013 Debate: The Voters Now Have their Turn
During the 2013 session, Representative Behning sponsored a major expansion of vouchers, HB 1003. When the bill reached the Senate Education Committee, Senator Kenley raised a set of significant questions in a lengthy exchange as Representative Behning introduced the bill to the Senate Committee meeting in the Senate Chamber.
Senator Kenley, the fiscal watchdog of the Senate, asked specifically if the proposed expansion wouldn’t lead to the expansion of vouchers to all private school students. He said since there are about 100,000 private school students and each voucher costs the state about $5000, the total new fiscal cost for vouchers eventually could be $500 million dollars. Senator Kenley asked if this is where Representative Behning wants to go with this program.
Representative Behning did not back away from the program or the vast fiscal cost. He restated his belief that all private school students should get a voucher. He said that he has long advocated for a “universal voucher” that would be available to every student in a private school, regardless of income or circumstances.
This is a vision for school funding that deserves review by the voters. Do they agree that the General Assembly should expand vouchers so that taxpayers would pay for the tuition of every private school student, including the provision of free religious education at public expense?
I don’t agree, and Michael Scott does not agree. The voters of District 91 can send a message of support for public education and opposition to any plans for a “universal voucher” by electing Michael Scott in the May 6th primary election.
$31 Million Spent in the First Year for Students Who Have Always Attended Private Schools
After HB 1003 passed in 2013, vouchers were paid to 7779 students who had never been enrolled earlier in a public school and 12030 students who had transferred from a public school to a private school, for a total of 19, 809 vouchers, according to a state report issued in January. Since on average each voucher costs the taxpayer $4092, the cost for the nearly 7800 students who have always been in private school and are now being paid with public tax dollars is $31.8 million.
That is a huge new cost to the public. Comparing it to other school costs, the state pays $18 million for all of summer school, $12 million for gifted and talented programs, and only $5 million for the entire Non-English Speaking program. Our priorities have become skewed.
The 12,030 students who transferred to private schools from a public school took $50 million in public tuition money with them. This amount should be analyzed differently from the $31 million described above. When students transfer from public schools to private schools, there is a small savings to the state since the voucher is always set at slightly less than the public school support payments. This “money saving” feature helped Representative Behning sell the program in the first place. The $50 million has been diverted from the public schools and thus hurts the revenue available to public school students, but overall the state saved a small amount of money. A year ago the savings was about $4 million.
Now that savings is gone. When $31 million is being spent on students who have always been in private schools, there is no more savings. The public is simply paying directly for private and religious education in a big way.
I think that is wrong. Michael Scott thinks that is wrong. The election on May 6th can turn around our priorities to focus on supporting public schools and stopping the march to privatize them.
What You Can Do
Michael Scott is walking District 91 to campaign and has invited all who want to help to join in the walks. In a general letter of invitation, he writes:
This has become a very important primary race and I need your help. We will be walking this Saturday April 12th in the Decatur Township area. I have a total of 2,852 homes in Decatur Township that need to be visited so please come bring a friend and pass this message on to someone else. With your help we can win this very important race.His website for more information or to support his campaign with a donation is:
We will meet at the Menards parking lot just behind the Starbucks at 8310 Windfall Ln. Camby, In. 46113. Morning sign in will start at 8:30 with the first morning group going out at 9:00. Afternoon sign in will start at 12:30 with the first afternoon group going out at 1:00. My (Michael Scott) cell number is 317-517-0947.
For those who may have never walked before we have walk packets put together. We walk in teams for safety. We just ask registered voters for their support. We have a great time meeting people. Please come and join us as "we the people" get involved in changing the way politics have been done in the last several years. We will be walking Guilford Township, Perry Township and Wayne Township at later Saturday dates. Please set some time aside during one of these next few Saturdays and help to make a difference for "future generations" Blessings!!! Michael Scott
Thanks for working to support public education!
There is no link between “Vic’s Election Notes on Education” and any organization. Please contact me at email@example.com to add an email address or to remove an address from the distribution list.
Some readers have asked about my background in Indiana public schools. Thanks for asking! Here is a brief bio:
I am a lifelong Hoosier and began teaching in 1969. I served as a social studies teacher, curriculum developer, state research and evaluation consultant, state social studies consultant, district social studies supervisor, assistant principal, principal, educational association staff member, and adjunct university professor. I worked for Garrett-Keyser-Butler Schools, the Indiana University Social Studies Development Center, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indianapolis Public Schools, IUPUI, and the Indiana Urban Schools Association, from which I retired as Associate Director in 2009. I hold three degrees: B.A. in Ed., Ball State University, 1969; M.S. in Ed., Indiana University, 1972; and Ed.D., Indiana University, 1977, along with a Teacher’s Life License and a Superintendent’s License, 1998.