ICPE Response to Indiana’s Proposed Budget Bill

April 21, 2021

The Indiana Coalition for Public Education (ICPE) welcomes the news that Indiana’s proposed budget will include $1.9 billion in new dollars for K-12 education over the biennium including a $1.03 billion increase in K-12 tuition support that exceeds the rate of inflation. We applaud additional funding for special education and English language learners. The budget will return Indiana to 2012 per-pupil spending levels, assuming a 2% rate of inflation over the next two years. We thank legislators and the Governor for making education a priority.

We are also gratified to see state leaders project that school districts should have enough in tuition support to improve teacher pay in an amount that will meet the Teacher Compensation Commission’s recommendation.

ICPE continues to oppose certain parts of the budget:

  1. We are dismayed that the legislature continues to give increasing tax dollars to the wealthy to educate their children in private schools, and that those schools are allowed to discriminate against children, families and their employees. ICPE will always oppose increasing private school vouchers because that diverts funding away from public schools. 
  1. We are alarmed by the creation of Education Scholarship Accounts. By creating ESAs now, the General Assembly is using this point in time, as public schools are trying to get their footing after the enormous instability the pandemic has caused to students’ learning, to create a new and more destabilizing form of voucher. 
  1. ESAs are a new concept to Indiana which would undermine public education and eventually create state-funded home schools. This concept was proposed by Milton Friedman, a man who wanted to end public education.
  1. Parents who accept an ESA will have minimal obligations as defined in the budget language. They will be required to spend part of the ESA money to provide instruction in any one the following with areas of study: reading, grammar, math, social studies, science or the student’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. No criminal background checks are required for ESA grants, and the ESA language does not include any protection from extremist parents who would use tax dollars to teach a radicalized agenda.
  1. Taxpayers would have no say in how their tax money is used in ESAs. This is not acceptable for the future of public schools, the bedrock of our local communities and of our democracy.
  1. Since the initial group eligible for ESAs are students who qualify for special education services, we are concerned that Indiana’s most vulnerable students will not receive or even be offered the free and appropriate educational opportunities to prosper in adulthood, and we are worried that many students with disabilities and their families will not be told they lose civil rights protections and aligned services by accepting an ESA.
  1. We are concerned that the ESA eligibility will grow in future years further depleting funding for public schools, and we believe ESAs will be subject to fraud.

ICPE will continue to advocate for Indiana’s Constitutionally mandated system of public schools, and we will continue to monitor funding and policies to ensure that Indiana’s K-12 education tax dollars are used wisely.

Public schools were created to serve the common good and to serve as the cornerstone of our democracy.

Public funds belong in public schools that are equally open to all.

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