Advocates for public education in District 48 in Elkhart County should be aware that one candidate in the May 6th Republican primary for the open House seat is an enthusiastic proponent of expanding private school vouchers. Such an expansion would further damage public schools in Indiana.
Elections tell the General Assembly what the voters want. If public education is going to survive, we must not elect candidates that want to expand private school vouchers.
[Please note: Indiana Code 3-14-1-17 says that government employees including public school employees may not “use the property of the employee’s government employer to” support the “election or defeat of a candidate” and may not distribute this message “on the government employer’s real property during regular working hours.” Ironically, the law does not prevent private school employees from using computers purchased with public voucher money to distribute campaign materials. Private schools now financed in part by public voucher dollars have retained all rights under Indiana’s voucher laws to engage in partisan political campaigns.]
District 48 Candidates
I know that there are many public school advocates in Elkhart, which is my home town (Elkhart High School Class of 1965). Just two years ago, Representative Tim Neese was challenged in the primary election because he had supported public education and had voted against K-12 private school vouchers. He prevailed in District 48 and continued to support public education in the General Assembly sessions of 2013 and 2014. As he leaves to seek the Office of Mayor in next year’s municipal elections, he will always carry my respect and admiration for helping public schools on difficult votes.
There are three Republican candidates running for the open seat created by Representative Neese’s decision. This primary election will most likely decide who will come to the Statehouse from District 48 since no Democrats have entered the race.
In interviews reported by Tim Vandenack of the Elkhart Truth, attitudes of the three candidates about K-12 vouchers are clear. All quotes below are from stories by Tim Vandenack.
Jesse Bohannon, a teacher at a private alternative school called The Crossing, has said he would make voucher expansion a priority.
“Bohannon identified school vouchers as the big issue for him. He favors expanding the program for the K-12 school system, allowing more state funding earmarked for education to follow students, whether they attend public or private schools or are home-schooled.” (posted April 22, 2014 by Tim Vandenack)
Paying taxpayer-funded tuition for home-schooling would be a huge new expansion that has never been even introduced in the General Assembly. It would further decimate funding for public schools.
Adam Bujalski, a bank manager, does not support voucher expansion. “He’s OK with Indiana’s school voucher program, which provides grants to families up to a certain income threshold to send their kids to private schools. But he wouldn’t want to expand it, worried about the impact if even more funding were diverted away from public schools to families sending their kids to private schools. ‘I do agree with the income cut-off at some point because we can’t completely butcher our public schools as well,’ he said.” (posted April 3, 2014 by Tim Vandenack)
Doug Miller, who runs a home building firm, does not support K-12 voucher expansion but supports preschool vouchers. “He backs the state’s voucher program as is, which grants funding up to certain household income limits to families so parents can send their kids to private K-12 schools. He’d like to take it to the preschool level, as sought by Gov. Mike Pence, and as allowed, in limited form, in a pilot measure approved by lawmakers this year, House Enrolled Act 1004.” (posted April 1 by Tim Vandenack)
Conclusions for the May 6th Primary
Whether to give public money to private schools through vouchers is the biggest educational question of our generation. Based on the above public comments about this crucial issue, public school advocates in District 48 would oppose Jesse Bohannon and would choose between Adam Bujalski and Doug Miller who have both expressed support for the current system but not for an expansion.
At this point in the battle to protect public education, the clear preference is for those willing to resist an expensive expansion of K-12 vouchers which would further damage public schools. In the words of Candidate Bujalski: “We can’t completely butcher our public schools.”
The concern in District 48 on this issue is that “no voucher expansion” voters might split their votes between two candidates and allow the “enthusiastic voucher expansion” candidate to succeed.
In the tradition of democracy, the voters will sort out and answer all of these questions on May 6th to determine the future of public education in Indiana. I respect our democracy, and I respect the voters. Democracy works best when all participate. Be sure to vote!
Thanks for working to support public education!
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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.