Monday, January 15, 2024

Vic’s Statehouse Notes #377 – January 15, 2024

 Vic's Statehouse Notes is a publication of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education.

Number 377 - January 15, 2024

Vic's Statehouse Notes
By Dr. Vic Smith

It's Not a Good Start for the Short Session

Two Senate bills, SB 255 and SB 143, directly implement Milton Friedman’s plan to give school funding to parents and not to schools, abruptly ending the way public education in Indiana has been funded for over a century.


Both bills must be strongly opposed, and promptly. Senate Bill 255 has been scheduled for a hearing on Thursday, January 18 at 9 a.m. in bill author Senator Mishler’s committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee, which meets in Room 431.


One immediate effect of both bills would have taxpayers for the first time pay $7,000 for ANY student in an unaccredited home school.



This blockbuster attack on public schools comes in a session when Republican leaders have been saying that controversial bills would not go forward in this short session.


This is an existential threat to public education right out of Milton Friedman’s playbook. Education accounts would be available to all parents through an on-line form operated by the Indiana Treasurer to provide $7,000 in services, the approximate amount provided to each student in the local public school.


This is a blockbuster that would unravel public education just as Milton Friedman’s followers have pushed for.

Context for Senate Bill 255


SB 255 expires the Choice Scholarship (Voucher) Program and the Education Scholarship Account (ESA) Program on June 30, 2025, replacing them with the newly named Funding Students First (FSF) Grant Program as a two-year pilot program through June 30, 2027. It allows parents of students who are homeschooled or who attend public or non-public schools to apply to the Treasurer for a grant.


It is unknown what would happen at the end of the two-year pilot program.


This is the first time unaccredited home school students would get the same funding now given to private school voucher students. The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency estimates state expenditures would go up by S46.5 million.

Context for Senate Bill 143


SB 143 would extend the ill-advised law passed in the 2021 budget using state money to fund unaccredited home schools for special education students. Parents of a few special education students argued that they needed complete control of their special education student’s schooling. The General Assembly passed this limited program and budgeted $10 million for the Indiana Treasurer to run the on line program. Then only 137 students signed up the first year and 431 in the second year, costing about $5.5 million according to the Legislative Services Agency.


Instead of trimming back the budget which was not being used, SB 143 proposes to spend the rest of the $10 million by opening up the home school funding to ALL home school students, not just special education students, on a first-come, first-served basis.


This is obviously a “foot in the door” bill to do what Milton Friedman’s followers are trying to do right away in the sweeping Senate Bill 255: give money to parents to choose among private school and home school options. Friedman wanted to end all state involvement in schools and treat education as a private good rather than the public good it currently is, providing the backbone of our communities and our democracy. 


SB 143’s ESA expansion would give public school opponents a toehold to expand the program each year with a bigger budget until eventually every student could have a home school ESA, while public schools shrink and lose their roles as centers of the community and conduits of democracy to the next generation. 


SB 255’s expansion is not incremental but makes all unaccredited home school students eligible for state funding right away. All voucher restrictions based on family income are gone. This goal has been the Holy Grail for Milton Friedman followers, and SB 255 makes it all come true.


What are some of the problems here?

1) Tutors and providers on the list approved by the Indiana Treasurer do not have to have criminal background checks, unlike all teachers and even volunteers in public schools.


2) Extremist home schooling parents could teach hate, discrimination and autocracy on the taxpayer’s dime. No one would know.


3) This would be the end of high standards for education in Indiana. Taking the ILEARN test is the only requirement, but there are no consequences to the home school or to the student for a low score. The two-decade push for higher standards in Indiana schools would be over. 


4) There is no supervision and no accountability for the parents running the home school using your tax dollars. They have to select providers from a list approved by the Indiana Treasurer, but the rest of the unaccredited home school has no oversight by anyone.


 5) This radical change will jolt the Indiana education system so much that highly sought young teachers will choose to go to other states, adding to our teacher shortage.

6) The non-partisan Legislative Services Agency estimates state expenditures would go up by S46.5 million.


Can We Risk Our Democracy?


State laws ban racial discrimination in our public schools. Private schools offering vouchers must sign a pledge on penalty of perjury to uphold the same laws against discrimination. There are no such laws, however, restricting home schools from teaching discrimination or supporting autocracy. 


These bills put our democracy at risk! 


How many radically educated students would it take to topple the broad consensus in support of our Constitution?


No one will ever know what kind of home schools these parents are operating. They do not have to file reports or host any visitations. The tax payers are shut out of any influence over curriculum. Tax payers pay the bill and then lose all say in the direction of the ESA schools.


The followers of Milton Friedman are actively supporting the bill because they want no government role in schools except to fund private schools. Let your senator and the following Education Committee members know how strongly you oppose these bills and the funding of unaccredited home schools.


You can copy these e-mail addresses and paste them into the "TO" field of your email:


Senate Education Committee: Senate Bill 143;;;;;

Senate Appropriations Committee: Senate Bill 255;;;;;;;


Our public schools that have served as the backbone of our democracy for 170 years deserve our support.


Thank you for your active support of public education in Indiana!


Best wishes,


Vic Smith 

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