Leaders From More Than 20 Local School Districts Show Opposition To State Legislation
Leaders from Elkhart, St. Joseph, Marshall and Kosciusko counties came together on Tuesday to oppose state legislation they say would divert money from public schools.
Representatives from over 20 local school districts attended a collaborative event hosted by Strong Public Schools For Strong Communities, where local mayors, business leaders, chamber officials and community members took turns reading from a four-county declaration to Indiana legislators and Governor Eric Holcomb.
"As mayors, we see that this legislation escalates the existing diversion of public dollars away from our local, public education," read Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson.
The declaration opposes state legislation that would give higher-income families access to school-choice vouchers and would create a new funding program for some families who want to remove their students from public schools.
“As teachers, administrators and support staff, the governor’s proposed increase in education funding made us hopeful," Penn-Harris-Madison Superintendent Jerry Thacker read. "But now, we are disheartened that so much of this increase would be directed to voucher funding at the expense of public schools.”
Several local school boards have passed resolutions opposing the legislation, including Elkhart, Baugo and Concord Community Schools, the School City of Mishawaka and the Penn-Harris-Madison and South Bend Community School Corporations.
Representatives from those districts placed copies of their resolutions on 24 music stands on the Warsaw Performing Arts Center stage on Tuesday – one for each legislative representative from the four counties.
Attendees also heard a presentation from economist Michael Hicks, the Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ball State University.
Hicks said school choice isn't necessarily detrimental to public schools – he said it's important for families to have options on how to educate their children. But, he said data show that school choice has favored public schools over the last 10 years, making state funding for private schools economically unwise.
"Overall, the winner of the competition for students through school choice were those of you who teach in local, traditional public schools," Hicks said. "The question is, why would you continue to spend money on something that's losing the competitive effect that's already occuring through school choice?"
The four-county declaration requests that the Governor and General Assembly vote against the legislation, and instead consider how to return public school funding to “adequate” levels.
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