EDITORIAL: Don't expand scope of school vouchers

2013-04-01T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Don't expand scope of school vouchers nwitimes.com
April 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

While we're glad the Indiana Supreme Court upheld Indiana's school voucher law, we're not in a rush to see that law expanded.

Indiana has gone though some rapid change in recent years. Take a breather on education reforms to give time to see whether the existing reforms will, as we expect, prove fruitful.

The existing voucher law is good. Students for whom a traditional public school doesn't seem to be the right answer have the option of attending a private school, even if their parents ordinarily couldn't afford it, because of the voucher program.

Hopefully, the increased competition for traditional public schools will inspire innovations that make them better.

We're already seeing evidence of that at some schools.

Competition makes businesses stronger, and the same is true of other institutions as well.  If regulatory relief is needed, make traditional public schools function more like charter schools.

Done right, school choice is good for parents, students and society.

In its ruling last week, the Supreme Court ruled that while the Indiana Constitution prohibits religious institutions from being direct beneficiaries of public funds, the vouchers directly students. Religious institutions that sponsor schools benefit only indirectly.

Indiana jumped feet first into the Choice Scholarship Program. The broad eligibility requirements are unusual, especially for a program so young.

House Bill 1003 would expand that program, waiving -- in some instances -- a requirement students attend public school at least one year before becoming eligible. Brothers or sisters of students already receiving a voucher would become eligible without trying public school first. Children would also become eligible if they live in a district where the local public school is rated D or F.

While that might be a convenience for the parents, public schools should remain the first choice for educating Hoosier children. Use public funds for private schools only after determining whether public school is the right choice for a child.

Let's preserve the philosophy that public school should be tried first to see if that is that works for each child. Then if it doesn't work, apply for a voucher the following year.

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