Letter: Vouchers becoming increasingly popular

To the editor:

A recent article submitted by Nancy Franke referred to education facts as rhetoric. Therefore I am obligated to report the actual facts.

Seymour and surrounding communities are fortunate to have great teachers in our public schools. Seymour and Brownstown high schools recently received an A rating for the first time in many years, graduation rates continue to improve and SHS even touts the A rating when advertising as an open enrollment school.

For those saying vouchers “take money away from” public education, Indiana spends about 2 percent on vouchers as what is spent on public education. Vouchers go to taxpaying parents and by incredible demand are becoming increasingly popular in Indiana and across the country. Franke’s own school at which she teaches embraces them, as do many other highly respected schools in our community.

The clear facts are that Hoosiers do devote a considerable amount of their tax dollars towards education. Indiana dedicates 52 percent of the state budget plus more than 40 percent of property tax dollars for K-12, and the Indiana General Assembly just passed an increase of $470 million last year.

Franke omitted we also dedicate billions in federal money and local sources annually commit millions more towards our youth. SCSC is growing, having a population of about 4,600 students and a budget of $45.2 million and is benefiting tremendously from recent legislation that now has funding following the child.

Hoosiers dedicate 12 percent of our budget on higher education. Combined with K-12 funding, Hoosiers spend 64 percent of the state budget on education. Along with property taxes, taxpayers spend almost double on education to what we spend on roads, courts, prisons, family and social services, Medicaid and all other state agencies combined.

Franke quoted me as stating only 58 percent of each dollar is spent in the classroom. Instead of increasing taxes to get more dollars to the classroom, I prefer to find better uses for existing funding.

For this, Indiana is blessed. Ninety-seven percent of Hoosier teachers are rated as effective or highly effective and with this many great teachers, teacher freedom and flexibility should help tremendously towards these goals.

To reward these efforts, our last budget even provided $70 million for teacher merit pay.

The mandates mentioned, specifically ISTEP, are primarily federal requirements and many were necessary to be granted a waiver from NCLB. To help “untie” the hands of local educators, however, legislators continue to provide them with the tools they are requesting.

One law recently was passed holding teachers and schools harmless from the ISTEP issues, while other bills provide superintendents the authority they have requested to fill hard to fill teaching positions and another creates a merit teacher/master teacher program to keep our experienced teachers in the classroom longer.

Indiana is blessed to have so many great, dedicated teachers, and I believe that to continue with our success, providing freedom and flexibility in the classroom will go further than asking the taxpayer for more money.

State Rep. Jim Lucas