The voluntary give-back of $3.9 million by voucher schools to the state coffers raises more questions than it answers:
- Did all voucher schools give back the amounts that were overcharged or only those voucher schools that wanted to?
- When did they know that they had overcharged the state for the vouchers and how long did they wait until repaying it? Did they include interest?
- Are overcharges for private school vouchers still going on in some schools?
- Who is checking the income levels of families receiving vouchers as required by law?
- If the state didn’t ask for the give-back, who knew that the voucher payments were wrong to initiate the give-back? How did they know?
- Will it take a state-ordered audit to get the voucher charges right?
The Unexpected Give-Back
The announcement reported in the Indianapolis Star on Dec.18th that private voucher schools are giving back $3.9 million to the state for “tuition miscalculations” was apparently not prompted by state action. Voucher schools apparently knew they had overcharged the state and “are policing themselves”, in the words of a press release from the Indiana Non-Public School Association.
Why are they policing themselves? Is the voucher law deficient in providing state oversight? Is this the way to run a multi-million dollar voucher program?
Or in the words of the banner headline in the Dec. 30th Indianapolis Star: “Who’s Watching Voucher Dollars?”
A Multi-Million Dollar Program for Private Schools
Millions of taxpayer dollars are now flowing to private and religious schools due to the 2011 voucher law and the 2013 expansion. The latest financial report on vouchers from the Indiana Department of Education dated June 17, 2014 reported that vouchers cost the state $16.2 million in the first year, $37.3 million in the second year, and $81.1 million in the third year, totaling $134.6 million over three years (2011-2014).
Now after a “self-study”, private schools are giving back $3.9 million, which represents 2.9% of the $134.6 million paid out by the state for vouchers over three years.
This is more than chump change. The $3.9 million is more than the state of Indiana invests annually in school technology in the Senator Ford Technology Fund, which is budgeted at $3.1 million per year. It is also more than the $3.76 million budgeted each of the past two years for the State Board of Education.
Answers are Needed Before Any Consideration of Expansion
Governor Pence has included in his legislative agenda an expansion of voucher fees to give even more money to private schools. How do we really know how much that will cost after these voluntary give backs have left a trail of unanswered questions?
Public school advocates should ask their legislators to halt any expansion of vouchers in light of the questions surrounding the “tuition miscalculations.” Legislators should not remove the cap on vouchers. They should investigate this situation and find solid answers for the taxpayers about this strange set of circumstances in which private schools are policing themselves after getting overpaid for the voucher program.
Legislators convene to discuss these matters on Tuesday, January 6th. I urge you to communicate with members of the General Assembly regularly throughout the session in support of public education. Thanks for your efforts!
Vic Smith email@example.com
“Vic’s Statehouse Notes” and ICPE received one of three Excellence in Media Awards presented by Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, an organization of over 85,000 women educators in seventeen countries. The award was presented on July 30, 2014 during the Delta Kappa Gamma International Convention held in Indianapolis. Thank you Delta Kappa Gamma!
ICPE has worked since 2011 to promote public education in the Statehouse and oppose the privatization of schools. We need your membership to help support the ICPE lobbying efforts. Joel Hand will again be our ICPE lobbyist in the Statehouse. Many have renewed their memberships already, and we thank you! If you have not done so since July 1, the start of our new membership year, we urge you to renew now.
We must raise additional funds for the 2015 session, which begins on January 6th. We need additional members and additional donations. We need your help and the help of your colleagues who support public education! Please pass the word!
Go to www.icpe2011.com for membership and renewal information and for full information on ICPE efforts on behalf of public education. Thanks!
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. In 2013 I was honored to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the IU School of Education, and in 2014 I was honored to be named to the Teacher Education Hall of Fame by the Association for Teacher Education – Indiana.