ST. JOHN | The Lake Central School Board unanimously approved a resolution against House Bill 1003 on Monday, noting that the new voucher program will put an unfair economic burden on the school system.
HB 1003 establishes a new school voucher program, expands Indiana’s pre-existing tax credit scholarship program from $4,500 to $5,500 and institutes a tax deduction for families with children home-schooled or already enrolled in private school.
The voucher program allows tax dollars that originally went to public schools to be used for private or parochial school enrollment.
Prior to introducing the resolution, Superintendent Lawrence Veracco presented a report on the March 19 rally against the new pending legislation in Indianapolis that he and School Board President George Baranowski attended.
“It was an inspiring rally,” Veracco said. “We spent quality time with Mr. (Hal) Slager, our representative. The LCTA (Lake Central Teachers Association) sent thousands of post cards to our legislators and other legislators.”
The voucher program “siphons off money from public schools,” he said.
Veracco also said that some provisions already have been removed from HB 1003. Those include the provision that all children of veterans and all foster children be automatically qualified for vouchers.
What’s still in the legislation that Veracco called “troubling” is a provision that all siblings of those who qualify for the voucher automatically be given the voucher. In addition, he said Lake Central School Corp. would lose the amount of state funding for a child living in the district who never enrolled in Lake Central, but who is enrolled in a private or parochial school.
“For a student who enters the Lake Central system in seventh grade, we would receive $4,700 per year. If that student enrolls in a private or parochial school, that school receives $5,500,” Veracco said.
The voucher program takes $17 million out of the pot of public school money, he said. That amounts to one-eighth of all money appropriated for K-12 education in the state.
The School Board's resolution cites all those factors, including a $21 million economic impact in the area. It asks the Indiana General Assembly to put HB 1003 on hold and to establish a study committee to evaluate the impact before any further changes are made to the voucher program.
School Board member Janice Malchow asked if the resolution is unique to Lake Central School Corp.l
“The movement began in Fort Wayne. Merrillville has already passed this resolution,” Veracco said.