State Senate approves school voucher program

2011-04-21T18:15:00Z 2011-04-21T19:07:53Z State Senate approves school voucher programBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Senate on Thursday narrowly approved a plan giving families state tax dollars to pay tuition at private schools.

House Bill 1003 passed 28-22 and now goes to a House-Senate conference committee to work out differences in separately passed versions of the legislation.

Under the plan, a family of four earning less than $41,000 a year would be eligible for a tuition voucher of up to $4,500 for grades one through eight, and up to $4,964 for high school.

A family of four with an income between $41,000 and $61,000 would be eligible for a voucher of up to $2,758 for all grades.

A total of 7,500 vouchers would be available in the 2011-12 school year, with 15,000 vouchers available for 2012-13.

The Senate changed the legislation to require private schools participating in the voucher program to teach American history and government, maintain a selection of patriotic readings and not advocate the violent overthrow of the government.

Republican state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett cheered passage of the school voucher bill -- one of the top items on Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels' legislative agenda.

"A great education should not be an option available only to a privileged few but rather a fundamental right for all Americans," Bennett said. "In Indiana, we are removing barriers to success and opportunity for students who have been denied equitable access for far too long."

State Sen. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, who voted no, said vouchers will take even more money away from public schools that already have suffered hundreds of millions in budget cuts under Daniels.

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