Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nov. 2nd Vote on the end of Public Education

A critical piece of commentary on the future of public education in Indiana.  Read it, take some notes, and pass it too a friend--then, for God's sake, VOTE.___________________________
The House Republicans of the Indiana House of Representatives, in their election agenda issued in early September, have called for private school vouchers and expanded private school tax credits if they gain control of the House in the November 2nd elections.

I oppose private school vouchers and tax credits, which would divert public money to private schools and insure the slow death of public schools through the gradual loss of both funding and community support. Therefore I must oppose the efforts of House Republican to win a majority in the House with my vote and with my voice.

Specifically, House Republicans call for public dollars to fund “grants” to allow students in “failing schools” to attend private schools, ignoring numerous public and charter options already available. They also call for an expansion of the tax credit program passed in the 2009 budget which diverts $2.5 million in state tax money to fund private school scholarships for “low-income families”. “Low-income” as defined in the 2009 law includes those making up to $81,586 for a family of four. Is that really “low income”?

Control of the House has been determined by a razor thin margin for years. Currently, Democrats hold the advantage 52-48. In 2005, when Republicans last recaptured the Indiana House by a 52-48 margin, I witnessed an epic legislative battle for several months on a bill to establish both private school vouchers and tax credits. Finally on April 7th, an amendment to remove vouchers from the bill passed 57-41 vote, with 10 courageous Republicans bucking their caucus leaders to resist private school vouchers.

Now, after retirements and primary election defeats, only two of those ten are still in the legislature. More recently in the 2010 short session, an amendment to SB309 was offered to allow tax credits for contributions to private schools, and only two Republican representatives opposed it.

The picture is clear. If they are in control, the Republican leadership will not fail in their efforts to bring private school vouchers and expanded tax credits to Indiana.  Therefore, the Nov. 2nd election is a referendum on the blockbuster issue of our generation: privatizing schools by supporting private schools with public funds.

This fundamental issue should not get lost in the din of campaign ads on other topics. With a legal mission to teach the Constitution and the attributes of good citizenship, public schools have been the key institution responsible for perpetuating our democracy. Giving public incentives to attend private and parochial schools will ultimately weaken public schools and destroy the community support that they must have to give all students who show up at the door a quality education. It will accelerate the fragmentation of our society along sectarian lines.

I believe that Indiana’s Constitution got it right in Article 1:”No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution.” Our public policies must avoid financial entanglements with religious schools.

Advocates for public education who agree with me need to be aware that those supporting private school vouchers believe they are on the brink of success for a goal they have pursued for years. Whether public dollars stay with public schools or will be diverted to private schools will be determined in the all-important November 2nd election. Those who wish to protect public schools from these privatization strategies should actively participate in the election for members of the Indiana House of Representatives. On this crucial issue, the battle lines are clear.



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