Indiana Lawmakers Send Debate On School Choice Expansion To State Budget Hearings

Mar 25, 2021

Senate Education and Career Development Committee Chair Jeff Raatz says the school choice expansion would take up roughly 17 percent of the new education funding proposed for the state's next two-year budget.
Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Lawmakers' efforts to expand school choice options are facing pushback from more than a hundred school corporations in Indiana, but a top lawmaker says a key piece of legislation that’s part of that effort won't have another hearing. 

House lawmakers put the hotly debated content of House Bill 1005 in the state budget bill, in addition to passing it as a standalone bill. It expands school voucher eligibility and creates a new education fund for families not enrolled in public schools, called Education Scholarship Accounts or ESAs. 

But Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Centerville), Senate Education and Career Development Committee chair, said he won't hear House Bill 1005 in his committee because the concepts have been through multiple hearings in both chambers, through the House legislation as well as Senate Bills 412 and 413.

Instead, the future of the proposed school voucher expansion and ESA program will be considered as part of the Senate's budget-writing process. 

"If the concept of 1005 lives, it will go across the floor in the budget where everybody will have an opportunity to vote on it," Raatz said.

READ MORE: How Do I Follow Indiana's Legislative Session? Here's Your Guide To Demystify The Process

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The chair's decision means one less opportunity for the public to testify on the proposed school choice expansion, and adds pressure to upcoming hearings on the state budget. 

Senate lawmakers plan to discuss the budget and school funding during public meetings Thursday.

Contact reporter Jeanie at jlindsa@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @jeanjeanielindz.