Monday, February 19, 2018

Letters: Private school students have other options

NEIFPE member Kathy Candioto sent this letter to the editor. In it she discusses  Indiana's voucher program and the "choice" private schools have to accept or reject students.

Private school students have other options

Published: February 19, 2018
I am writing to respond to “Choice Scholarships give Hoosier kids a future” (Feb. 7). Reyna Rodriguez, a Bishop Luers graduate, supports the scholarship/voucher program. Rodriguez, who used voucher money to complete her private school education, wrote to object to an op-ed written by Phyllis Bush (Jan. 22).

Bush ended her piece (supporting public schools and objecting to vouchers) with a rhetorical question: “Whose choice is it, anyway?” Rodriguez insists choosing Luers was her personal decision but, in truth, the voucher school itself has the choice. If Rodriguez had had a disciplinary record or was a child with difficult learning or physical needs, Luers might not have accepted her. The private school has the choice. But every public high school in Allen County would, by law, accept this student and do its best to accommodate her needs.

In 2015-16, Bishop Luers used $1,626,778 in vouchers or choice scholarship awards. This money, taxpayer funds, was taken directly from the public school fund of the state budget.

In 2016-17, $146 million was spent on school vouchers across the state. This was money meant for public schools but moved, instead, to private schools.

In Allen County, 97 percent of schools receiving voucher funds are religious schools.

Students like Rodriguez have various paths available to fund their private education. Probably the best way would be through a state-sponsored program called the Scholarship Granting Organization, also referred to as the Tax Credit Scholarship. Enacted in 2009, this program awards a donor 50 percent of his donation as an Indiana State Tax Credit. And, there is no limit on the amount of the donor's gift. A graduate of Luers could donate to the organization and help give the gift of a private religious education to a prospective student.

Bush and I, along with educators, parents and grandparents across the state, support public schools that accept all students. We object to taxpayer money funding private and religious schools. We are concerned about the depletion of the public school fund, which continues to lose more money each year to vouchers. As retired public school educators, we are committed to saving public dollars for public schools.

Kathy Candioto

Fort Wayne

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