(AP) — Any expansion of Indiana's already ambitious school voucher program
may have to wait after senators pushed for more information Wednesday to
determine the effects of the fledgling program.
Kenley, R-Noblesville, and Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said they were
concerned that too little information was available on the state's voucher
program — which is barely a year old — to merit an expansion.
"This is a
pretty, almost, cataclysmic change in the education system," Kenley said
as the bill was debated by a Senate education committee. "I wonder if this
would make sense to give it a rest for some time, say five years, and
Republicans advanced a multi-faceted plan to expand the voucher program
last month that includes raising the maximum amount of each voucher to
$5,500, raising the income eligibility limits for certain families and
allowing children entering kindergarten to forgo a one-year stay in a
Rogers pressed a lobbyist for Gov. Mike Pence, who supports the expansion,
what data he had to support his position. He pointed to increasing
enrollment in the voucher program, but Rogers, a retired teacher, said she
"Maybe we need
to wait and find out what happened to those students before increasing
their numbers," she said.
legislation also establishes a state matching program to encourage private
donations to school choice groups that would then be used to send children
voucher expansion has drawn the most protest, though not yet to the scale
of the five-week walkout by House Democrats during the 2011 voucher
battle. Voucher supporters and private school leaders rallied at the
Statehouse last week, while public school officials and teachers packed
the halls during a counter-rally Tuesday.
Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, told members of
the Senate Education and Career Development Committee that vouchers were
needed to give Indiana more education options.
doing is providing more choices," said Behning, author of this year's
Behning through the opening of the hearing, saying the provision that
would allow children entering kindergarten to skip the one-year stay in a
public school violated an agreement that won the votes needed to pass the
voucher bill two years ago.
won easy approval in the House, where it was backed by House Speaker Brian
Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and a Republican supermajority. But Senate
Republicans, including Senate Education Chairman Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn,
have urged caution in embracing any expansion.
also chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, could have a final say on
the expansion this session if the bill is sent to his committee for a cost