INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — State lawmakers are now considering a measure that would increase the number of school children eligible for private school vouchers by the thousands.
The first vote on the measure will take place Thursday. Tuesday there was a long public hearing on the bill that includes provisions sought by Governor Mike Pence.
Almost 4,000 Indiana students received private school vouchers last year and about 9,000 will take part in the rapidly expanding program this year. A committee in the Indiana House of Representatives is considering a bill that could make as many as 6,000 additional students eligible for vouchers.
At the public hearing some of the opposition came from a lobbyist who directed lawmakers to the WISH-TV/Ball State Hoosier survey.
It found that that just 28% support expanded vouchers while 31% are opposed. It also found that an overwhelming majority statewide is satisfied with the education provided by public schools.
Joel Hand of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education Indiana Coalition for Public Education says those findings are meaningful.
"Because it helps demonstrate what Hoosiers really believe about public education," he said, "the quality of education their children are receiving and, maybe more importantly for this discussion, whether or not private school vouchers are something that should be in existence at all, or expanded."
Voucher advocates point to other statistics.
"You know it's working," said Robert Enlow of the Friedman Foundation, "you know it's supported by the public because it's increased 140%."
The governor, meantime, wants vouchers for foster children, special ed students, and the children of veterans. It's a big expansion that will meet with opposition from lawmakers, too.
"In the end I don't know where it will be," says author Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis.) "It won't be as large as it is right now."
Meanwhile, the Hoosier Survey did find that there was a big increase over the last year in the number of people who are undecided about vouchers. They grew from 28% to 39%. It's one reason why this debate won't go away.
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