INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Supporters of Indiana's charter
schools and private school vouchers packed a Statehouse corridor with
hundreds of children from those schools for a rally Monday as they back
expansion of those programs.
Gov. Mike Pence and the GOP House and Senate leaders all told the crowd
of perhaps a couple thousand children and adults that the charter school
and voucher programs had helped spur greater competition for improvement
in the state's education system.
Reform Rocks" rally happened as the Legislature is considering a
proposal to expand Indiana's 2-year-old voucher system that already is
the nation's largest. A bill already approved by the Indiana House this
year would allow kindergartners and some other children to be eligible
without first spending a year in public schools.
the rally a "celebration" of Indiana's "school choice" initiatives that
now have some 30,000 students in charter schools and about 9,000
students receiving vouchers.
"If we give
parents more choices and teachers more freedom to teach, education in
Indiana will continue to rock," Pence told the crowd.
bill now pending in the state Senate makes several exemptions from the
requirement included in the 2011 law that all students spend at least
one year in public schools before becoming eligible for a voucher. It
eliminates that requirement for siblings of current voucher students,
for children in military and foster families and for children with
Andrews, who attended the rally with her daughter's 3rd grade class from
St. Mary's Catholic school in Rushville, said while her family isn't in
the voucher program she believed it helped give parents more options in
the rural county about 40 miles east of Indianapolis.
think it's wonderful that we have that choice in our county," Andrews
legislators have questioned expanding the voucher eligibility, saying
the state is stretching itself thin to fund three school systems —
traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools through
the voucher program.
Goodin, D-Austin, said last year's election of Democrat Glenda Ritz, a
voucher opponent, as state school superintendent was a sign that
Republicans were pushing too soon for a bigger voucher program.
passed under the guise of pilot projects, so let's see if they're
working," said Goodin, superintendent of the Crothersville school
district. "One year doesn't get that done."
Indiana Pacers star Jalen Rose told the rally crowd about the charter
school he helped open in his hometown of Detroit to give troubled high
school students another chance. Rose said Indiana has been on the
forefront of change in education and that he wanted to steal some of its
going to take this back to the state of Michigan and stand on the table
to get vouchers for our students," Rose said.
Witherspoon of Portage attended the rally with students from Charter
School of the Dunes in Gary, which two of her children now attend.
said she believed the additional school options were helping children in
the Gary area where many of the public schools have for years been
troubled by low test scores and graduation rates.
"Why are we
turning out a generation of kids that we're just letting go through?"
she said. "It doesn't prepare them for the real world."