SUPERINTENDENT’S CORNER: Why local school leaders oppose more voucher funding

By LAURA HAMMACK, guest columnist

One of our recent school board meetings realized the passing of a resolution authored by both our Brown County Schools Board of Trustees and the Brown County Educators’ Association. This resolution affirmed their position of opposing education savings accounts and voucher expansion bills currently being considered by the Indiana General Assembly.

During a time when our state government is realizing significant budgetary stressors due to pandemic-related tax revenue declines, expansion of education savings accounts and vouchers for private schools is irresponsible and ill conceived. It is estimated that $140 million is being earmarked for the expansion of these private school programs.

During a time when we are woefully underpaying Indiana’s public school teachers, as evidenced by the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission report, the allocation of $140 million to fund private schools simply cannot be reckoned. At least 170 school boards from across the state have issued similar resolutions expressing opposition to this record-breaking level of private school expansion, and still the allocation proceeds through the legislative process.

The following narrative represents the Resolution Opposing Education Savings Accounts and Voucher Expansion recently passed by the Board of School Trustees of Brown County Schools and the Brown County Educators’ Association. We stand aligned with school districts across the state in opposition to public tax dollars being legislated to wealthy families sending their children to private schools while our teachers remain among the most underpaid in our nation.

WHEREAS, the Indiana General Assembly during its 2021 legislative session is considering bills that establish Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) and expand vouchers.

WHEREAS, the Board and BCEA has determined that the Indiana General Assembly should not enact Education Savings Accounts, or expand vouchers, and should continue to promote and fully invest in Indiana’s public schools, more specifically:

To further the public good, public funds should be invested in improving the schools designed to serve all children and to aid in improving Indiana public school teachers’ salaries as recommended by the Governor’s Teacher Compensation Commission in its report of December 14, 2020.

Public schools are required to operate in an open, transparent way with all expenditures and decision-making. Nonpublic schools are not held to that same public standard.

Legislators should reduce the over-regulation of state and federal bureaucracy that hinders the ability of local schools to innovate and be responsive to parent and community needs.

WHEREAS, the costs of Education Savings Accounts and school vouchers are covered exclusively by our state’s school tuition support fund, further providing fewer public dollars to fund our public schools and increase teacher salaries.

WHEREAS, the Board and BCEA believes that public schools provide a strong educational environment for Indiana’s children and Education Savings Accounts, if enacted, and expanded school vouchers would put this environment at risk by directing resources away from those schools to nonpublic schools and/or home schools that are not subject to the same rigorous scrutiny for their use of taxpayer resources.

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved, the Board of School Trustees of Brown County Schools and the Brown County Educators Association opposes the passage and signing of any other bill expanding vouchers and/or creating Education Savings Accounts.

If funding private schools doesn’t align with your vision for responsible expenditure of your tax dollars, please tell your legislators that HB 1001, the budget bill, should not be passed in its current design.

Laura Hammack is superintendent of Brown County schools. She can be reached at 812-988-6601 or [email protected].