"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"...no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish enlarge, or affect their civil capacities." – Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, February 18, 2021

2021 Medley #3 - that Pesky State Constitution

HB 1005, Publicly Funded Discrimination

The Indiana House of Representatives passed HB 1005 which calls for increases in funding for voucher accepting parochial and private schools. Public schools get the leftovers.

Article 8 Section 1

Public schools are a Constitutional mandate in Indiana. Sending tax money to private schools is not, even if the money is laundered through the parents (parents designate a school and the state sends the school the money). The Indiana Constitution says...
Knowledge and learning, generally diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it shall be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual, scientific, and agricultural improvement; and to provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.


'Hoosiers all lose': Former state superintendents come out against voucher expansion

Parochial and private schools in Indiana are not "open to all" as mandated by the Constitution. Yet the House of Representatives continues to divert more and more tax money away from public schools into the pockets of religious institutions (which is against the state Constitution -- see Article 1, Section 6) and private school operators.

This year, the House members will boast that they passed a huge increase for education, though they won't say that more than 1/3 of the increase went to schools serving fewer than 5% of the state's students.
While the fiscal analysis on House Bill 1005, one of the bills objected to by Reed Goddard and the other former superintendents, estimated its cost at $66 million, a new projection of education expenditures over the next two years puts the cost of those programs much higher – closer to $144 million over the two years of the proposed budget. The expansion of these publicly-funded private school programs, which educate fewer than 5% of Hoosier students, would receive more than one-third of the new K-12 education dollars in the House budget.

In their letter, the superintendents argue that HB1005 and similar proposals from the Senate (in Senate Bills 412 and 413) would divert significant dollars away from public schools. They also joined a chorus of individuals, including some lawmakers and other public school advocates, worried that the ESA program will open the door for fraud.

“Hoosiers all lose when children are not well educated,” the letter said, “and public tax dollars are not accounted for responsibly.”

House passes voucher expansion

The speaker of the Indiana House, Todd Huston, must not be familiar with the Indiana Constitution, which plainly states that the General Assembly is responsible for a "...SYSTEM of common schools..." [emphasis added] not individual students. While Betsy DeVos may agree with his take on privatization, his comments quoted in this article are Constitutionally wrong. According to the Constitution, the Indiana General Assembly does, indeed, fund systems. [emphasis added]
House Bill 1005 would increase the amount of money families can make to be eligible for vouchers and also increase the awards themselves.

And the measure creates new Education Scholarship Accounts in which state money would be deposited for families to choose how they want to educate their children. It is open only to special education students and children of active military.

The cost of the bill is more than $65 million over the biennium.

...House Speaker Todd Huston took to the floor to defend the bill – something he usually doesn't do since he presides over the chamber. He said “we fund students, not systems” and said opposition is just an attack on parents.

“Who's accountable? Families,” Huston said.

Leaky bucket: legislature diverts K-12 tuition support funding from public schools

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education posted an infographic (pdf version here) showing how money for parochial and private schools is drained from tax funds meant for public schools. Among the points on the infographic...
The more legislators siphon away money for pet projects, that’s less for public schools and teacher pay...

99% of the taxpayer money [for vouchers] goes to religious schools that can (and many do) discriminate...

They can choose to exclude any students for any reason, or for no reason at all...


David Berliner on the Travesty of Public Funds for Religious Schools

David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor of Education Emeritus at Arizona State University, understands why public tax dollars should not go to parochial schools.
  • They aren't required to accept all students. Instead of students choosing private or parochial schools, the schools choose which students they will accept.
  • They don't have to follow the same curriculum as public schools and can teach questionable topics.
  • Indiana parochial and private schools aren't accountable to the state for the money they receive.
  • They drain tax dollars from public school systems.
This quote is specific to a parochial school in North Carolina, but the same is true for many of the parochial schools getting tax dollars through vouchers in Indiana.
...So, despite the receipt of public money, the Fayetteville Christian School is really not open to the public at all! This school says, up front and clearly, that it doesn’t want and will not accept Jews, Muslims, Hindu’s, and many others. Further, although supported by public money, it will expel students for their family’s alleged “sins”. Is papa smoking pot? Expelled! Does your sibling have a homosexual relationship? Out! Has mama filed for divorce? You are gone! The admissions and dismissal policies of this school–receiving about a half million dollars of public funds per year–are scandalous. I’d not give them a penny! North Carolina legislators, and the public who elects them should all be embarrassed to ever say they are upholders of American democracy. They are not.


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