Indiana Senate Passes Expansive School Voucher Program as School Choice Sweeps the Nation

Bill backed by Governor Daniels has passed both houses

Washington, D.C. (April 21, 2011) — In a monumental victory for families, the Indiana State Senate today passed a comprehensive school voucher bill that would expand educational opportunities to thousands of children from low- and middle-income families across the state over the next three years.

The American Federation for Children (www.FederationForChildren.org), a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, hailed the measure and praised the bill’s champions, including Governor Mitch Daniels, State Education Superintendent Tony Bennett, House Speaker Brian Bosma, and Senate President Pro Tempore David Long for advancing the sweeping school choice measure.

The legislation, House Bill 1003, creates a high-quality, accountable and means-tested voucher program—the Choice Scholarships program—which will benefit up to 15,000 children by its second year of operation. The legislation also expands Indiana’s existing scholarship tax credit program by increasing the maximum amount of donations.

The Indiana House of Representatives passed a similar bill earlier on March 30, 2011. After the House gives the final approval to the Senate’s version of the bill, the final legislation will go to desk of Gov. Mitch Daniels to be signed into law. Daniels has been a stalwart supporter of the plan since the beginning of the legislative session, having made school choice a key priority for 2011.

“This bill will finally give thousands of families what they all deserve, and that’s a choice in the educational future of their children,” said Betsy DeVos, chairman of the American Federation for Children. “We thank Governor Daniels and the Indiana Legislature for working so hard to make widespread school choice a reality across the state. We hope that lawmakers across the country will follow their lead in giving educational options to the families that need them most.”

Efforts to bring an expansive school voucher program to Indiana benefitted greatly from strong local organizational support. Both School Choice Indiana (www.SchoolChoiceIndiana.com) and the Indianapolis-based Foundation for Educational Choice were instrumental in generating significant support for school choice in the state.

In addition to providing children from low- and middle-income families with access to private schools that would otherwise be out of reach, the Choice Scholarships program will be a fiscal savings to the state.

Participating schools in the Choice Scholarships program would also be required to abide by the same strict accountability measures currently required of schools in the scholarship tax credit program, including adherence to all state nondiscriminatory requirements, participation in all state exams, and annual independent financial audits. These accountability provisions were strongly supported by AFC and its partner organization, the Alliance for School Choice.

The passage of the Choice Scholarships program accompanies the enactment of additional education reform legislation in Indiana—including improvements in the state’s charter school law and advancements for virtual charter schools. Beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, Hoosier families will have more educational options than ever before.