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Private School Voucher Bill Facing Statewide Opposition Before Thursday Vote

NYC Department of Education

Education groups are asking legislators not to open a second window to apply for private-school vouchers. The Senate has already voted to extend the voucher deadline to December and let students transfer at midyear.

Vic Smith with the Indiana Coalition for Public Education complains private schools already have an advantage in marketing themselves to prospective students, and says the change would make that edge four-and-a-half months longer.

State school superintendent Glenda Ritz last week called on legislators to kill the bill. She says the state shouldn't further expand vouchers without a study of how the program has worked.

Indiana's teachers' unions, the Indiana School Boards Association, and other public school groups all challenged vouchers' effectiveness, in both educational and fiscal terms.

Indiana State Teachers Association spokesman John O’Neil says vouchers haven’t lived up to their billing.

“I know that the argument was they could do it cheaply and frankly, it’s cost over $40 million,” O’Neil says. “The program has run at a loss since its beginning.”

The later deadline would add an estimated $2 million dollars to the cost of the program.

Supporters say the bill is aimed at helping dropouts and students with discipline problems enroll in private alternative schools without having to wait for a new school year. But they say the midyear option shouldn't be limited to those students.

Indiana Nonpublic Education Association executive director John Elcesser says the only reason the bill is being described as an “expansion” is because it’s an election year.

“I believe we’re talking about small impact on the state,” Elcesser says. “But for each of those individual families, who need to find another option for their child at mid-semester, it’s huge for them.”

The House Education Committee is set to vote on the bill Thursday.

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