Many thanks to Carissa Dollar, Vice President of Advocacy with Indiana PTA, for presenting during ICPE’s special Presidents Day webinar. Many participants have asked to have a copy of her written remarks, which are featured below.

“Good afternoon. My name is Carissa Dollar, and I serve as the Vice President of Advocacy for the Indiana Parent Teacher Association. 

PTA believes that free public education must be recognized and supported as the cornerstone to a free democracy. 

Therefore, Indiana PTA advocates for ALL Hoosier students, parents and teachers, with our units proudly representing roughly 150,000 students and 9,000 teachers across the state. 

Indiana PTA’s position is that the public schools in our state are not yet adequately funded; therefore it is fiscally irresponsible for our state during a financial crisis to continue to drain already scarce funds from public schools in order to expand voucher programs and to create education savings accounts.

Therefore, Indiana PTA stands in strong opposition to both HB 1005 and SB 412.

Legislators may claim that vouchers and ESAs “open the door” to parent empowerment and increased opportunities for Hoosier students.

So what does “opening the door to the land of education savings accounts” look like?

The creation of ESAs would shift public money that would otherwise be used to fund public schools – approximately $7,000 per student – to allow parents to run unsupervised home or independent schools with no accountability. 

  • According to FORBES magazine, “a shift to ESAs represents a radical shift in our country’s approach to education. The old idea that education is a public good that should be guaranteed to every child not just for their own sake, but for the sake of society as a whole — ESAs replace that idea with the notion that education is a commodity like toasters and floor lamps, purchased by parents for their own personal use. Rather than an important service that is everybody’s business, ESAs work on the premise that education is only a parent’s business, and therefore only the parent’s problem.”

Behind that door, our state may also find a “free-for-all” atmosphere, with “anything goes curriculum” and with increased opportunities for fraud, incompetence and the exercise of a lack of good judgement.

Behind that door, our state may also find a “free-for-all” atmosphere, with “anything goes curriculum” and with increased opportunities for fraud, incompetence and the exercise of a lack of good judgement.

  • There have been many instances of fraud in other states where ESAs are utilized.

  • Why would Indiana want to open the door to these potential issues, especially when legislators don’t want to enact stricter regulations of virtual charters, when Indiana already holds the record for virtual charter school fraud, to the tune of $85 million? 

Let’s peek behind that door and explore the massive fraud that occurred in Arizona.

  • In Arizona, some parents pocketed the ESA money and then sent their kids back to public schools.

  • Some Arizona parents also purchased books or other educational materials using state-issued ESA debit cards, then returned them for a full refund. The returned money was put on gift cards, allowing parents to spend it with no scrutiny.

  • In one year alone, Arizona found fraudulent purchases totaling over $700,000 in charges for, among other things, beauty supplies and athletic apparel.

  • Arizona officials even believe that in 2014, their ESA program became one of their only state programs to fund abortion when ESA money was allegedly spent on the procedure.

Is this really a door Hoosiers want to open?

And while we’re standing in this doorway, peeking at the future of Hoosier public schools after the establishment of ESA’s, we may have to wave goodbye to some opportunities for Indiana’s public school students and teachers. 

  • If our legislators choose to divert even more public funds through the creation of ESAs, parents and students may eventually find that they actually have fewer choices.

  • Indiana is already funding three separate school systems: traditional public schools, charter schools and vouchers for private schools.

  • If we add ESAs into that mix, we’ll be attempting to stretch our tax dollars even further, while not fully or adequately funding our state’s Constitutionally required public schools. 

  • What will our Hoosier public schools have to cut to remain fiscally responsible? Art? Music? PE? School librarians? Dual language programs? Advanced placement classes? Dual credit courses? Career and technical education training?

  • And what happens when parents return their children to their home public school in November, having already spent their funding?  Public schools will have no choice but to educate those children – while receiving no state tuition support for doing so. 

  • And how will we ever make pay for Hoosier teachers competitive with neighboring states, let alone deliver on Gov. Holcomb’s promise that we will be “one of the best in the Midwest for teacher pay” if we continue to divert funds from public schools? The report on teacher compensation urged the legislature to add $300-600 million dollars to push towards teacher pay. Not to pull another $68-150(?) million dollars out of the pot. 

The beauty of public education, the cornerstone of American democracy, has always been its rich diversity with students from all sorts of backgrounds, ethnicities and talents mixed together as a “great equalizer.”

With the increased challenges many students are currently facing, 94% of our Hoosier children need our legislature to concentrate on filling in the gaps created by emergency schooling in a pandemic, and NOT on opening the door to an unregulated education marketplace. Instead of spreading our public funds even thinner, our legislature should be looking for ways to more adequately fund public schools. 

On behalf of Hoosier parents, teachers and students, Indiana PTA is asking our legislators to CLOSE THE DOOR against the creation of education savings accounts.

We hope you will contact your legislators and ask them to vote NO to the creation of ESAs.

Thank you.”


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